A U.S. Senator who advocates for selling off federal public lands was in Montana on Friday campaigning for Senate hopeful Republican Matt Rosendale.
Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee endorsed Rosendale last December. Together they’re hosting get out the vote events in Polson, Missoula and Whitefish.
"Basically what we are doing is giving one last very hard push to make sure that you get your friends, your neighbors, your relatives, your family out to vote," Rosendale said.
About 40 people, including a half-dozen local legislators, turned out for the rally at Casey’s Bar in Whitefish. Rosendale and Lee spoke for a total of eight minutes and left without taking questions from the crowd or press.
Lee sponsored a bill in 2015 to sell off public lands in a handful of western states, including Montana. Rosendale supported the land transfer movement while running for the Montana Legislature in 2014.
Earlier this year, Rosendale flipped his stance. His campaign website now says, “The people of Montana have made it very clear that they oppose a federal lands transfer. I have listened to them and I completely agree.”
But many people in the crowd in Whitefish, like Amy Regier, want Rosendale to champion the land transfer movement in Washington, D.C.
"Yes, I would like to see the control come back to the state," Regier said. "I think Matt Rosendale supports that."
Both the Montana and national Republican party platforms support transferring public lands to the states. Neither Rosendale nor Lee mentioned public lands in their speeches.
Ryan Busse is the board chair of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers but attended the rally on his own time. He says he doesn’t think Rosendale’s flip-flop on public lands is sincere.
"I don't think that Mr. Lee would be here endorsing him and taking his time if they didn't have plans to work on the transfer and sale of our public lands, and I don't trust him," Busse said.
Rosendale faces incumbent Democrat Jon Tester in the midterm election on November 6.