In less than two months, Montana voters will head to the polls to select challengers for U.S. Democratic Senator Jon Tester and Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte. Between now and the June 5 primary, Montana Public Radio is talking with voters about political issues important to them.
I hung out at a pro-gun rally in Kalispell’s Depot Park this weekend to hear what’s on voters’ minds.
Nan Wise of Kalispell is live-streaming and narrating the rally on her phone as she holds signs on the side of the road.
"Pay attention America. Wake up. Be a patriot. Vote," Wise says.
She says the Second Amendment protects all of the other freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights, and she supports a candidate who’ll defend the right to bear arms. For the upcoming midterms, that’s Republican Senate hopeful Dr. Albert Olszewski of Kalispell.
"Dr. O. is pro-Second Amendment," Wise says. "Anybody that's pro my constitutional rights is gonna have my vote."
Wise says guns have been villainized by the left and mainstream media, when really they’re just a tool. She wants to do away with gun free zones and says guns are a necessary defense for people in rural areas. She calls them an equalizer to fight against the evil in the world.
"If we don't fight for the one amendment that protects all the others, we've lost. We have nothing," she says.
Wise adds that she supports anybody who voted for President Donald Trump’s recent tax reform.
Down the sidewalk, a man named William from the Bigfork Area, who wouldn’t give me his last name, says he’s stopped following parties and now focuses on the issues.
"Doesn't matter who's in office. You've got to be able to read the Constitution and make good calls," he says.
William wants to reduce government, support the Constitution, set term limits and end illegal immigration. He says he reads everything he can about how candidates stand on the issues before he votes, but finding a candidate who will actually vote the way they stump is another story.
"Like I say, 55 years, nobody's kept their word. You lose faith. So I'm not against another revolution."
On the corner of Depot Park, Tish Haas waves a red, white and blue American flag and a golden Gadsden flag in one hand. In the other, she holds up a shooting target with a black silhouette.
"With a smiley face I put there with a .45 automatic pistol."
Nicky Ouellet: You got quite some accuracy on your shot.
"Yes, I do," Haas replies.
Haas says upholding the Constitution is her top issue, and she picks her candidates accordingly.
"That's a lot of stuff in that document."
She says Olszewski is her pick to challenge Tester this November.
"Falls right in line with everything I believe," Haas says.
Randi Dugan of Kalispell is also a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment.
"If that's taken away, that's just shocking to me. That would be like, the Constitution, what's it even for?"
For Dugan, the breakdown of the family and prevalence of violent video games seems more of a problem than guns when it comes to mass shootings. But she also wants to see some restrictions on the Second Amendment.
"I also believe in gun control," Dugan says, "like the automatic weapons; I wish they'd legislate some controls in that area. I know some gun people would hate me saying that, but I really do think it would really help at this point because the power that's behind some of those guns, it's a nightmare to get in the wrong hands."
The issue is important enough to carry her vote. Dugan considers herself an independent and is trying to hear from every candidate before she makes a choice, but even with all that research, she’s having trouble.
"It's so hard with politicians and elections; what they're really going to do once they're elected. It's so hard."
Montana’s primary election is June 5. Absentee ballots will be sent out May 11.