This week, Montana’s Republican candidate for governor unveiled what he’s billing a comeback plan for the state.
During a press conference July 15 in Missoula, current U.S. Congressman Greg Gianforte said the novel coronavirus has created a “economic pandemic” that must also be cured.
“So how do we do it? We need to get our economy going again. We need to get Montana open for business. We need to get Montanans back to work in good-paying jobs, all while protecting our way of life," Gianforte said.
Gianforte’s plan calls for further developing Montana's natural resources, like coal, oil, gas and timber. It also supports boosting the state’s technology, manufacturing and agriculture industries, the latter by expanding in-state agriculture processing.
The plan advocates rolling back what Gianforte calls unnecessary regulations while streamlining the permitting process for projects like irrigation canals.
If elected governor, Gianforte said he would change how the state government operates.
“From new leadership at state agencies, to prioritizing customer service to get government to work for people again. From holding the line on state spending, to cutting taxes for all Montanans," he said.
Gianforte’s plan also includes sections about stopping sanctuary cities, promoting families and protecting gun rights.
Though the document outlines measures to recover economically from the coronavirus, it doesn’t include strategies to mitigate the virus’ public health impacts. Gianforte said the plan was primarily written to address business.
Several of the roughly 20 people who attended Gianforte’s outdoor campaign event Wednesday, most of whom weren’t wearing face masks, asked questions related to the coronavirus and personal protective equipment mandates.
Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock on Wednesday issued a directive requiring residents of counties with four or more COVID-19 cases to wear masks inside public spaces and at large outdoor gatherings when social distancing isn’t possible.
Speaking broadly about the virus and not Bullock’s new mask directive, Gianforte said the state should provide guidelines, but that local officials should make policy decisions.
“I do think, on a going forward basis, we need to focus more on personal responsibility, not government mandates," Gianforte said.
In a prepared statement, a campaign spokesperson for Democratic gubernatorial candidate and current Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney said it’s disingenuous to say Montana’s economy needs a comeback, due to the leadership of Bullock and Cooney during the pandemic.