Montana Dem breaks with party, claims rural sensibilities in long-term bid for House seat

A candidate crush has sprung up in the race for the new Montana House seat created in the 2020 census redistribution, but Democrat Jack Ballard is going the other way.

It targets the 2nd Congressional District and incumbent Republican Representative Matt Rosendale, who owns what was previously the state’s only general district.

Mr. Ballard is the only Democrat in the race so far, but the chances of him winning the general election are long in heavily Republican Montana.

“I spent a lot of time campaigning in rural Montana,” Mr. Ballard said in an interview. “It was my world. I can go to any farmer or rancher down the street in eastern Montana and strike up a conversation. I know how they live. I know the kind of challenges they face.

Mr. Ballard, writer and outdoor photographer, is an avid hunter, fisherman and conservationist who grew up on his grandfather’s ranch in Three Forks, a town of less than 2,000 people.

He sees his campaign as a test of his rural roots against a Democratic Party disconnected from rural America. So he’s also going his own way with his campaign platform.

Mr. Ballard’s strategy is to stick to an economic plan rather than a cultural message. This includes rejecting aspects of his party that isolate his electorate.

“You can’t go out and scare them with stupid stuff like funding the police and opening the borders,” he told the Washington Times.

The nominee, instead, focuses on jobs, increasing wages, access to healthcare, and conservation issues that remain relevant statewide.

Mr Rosendale, a transplant from Maryland who over the past decade has moved into politics in Montana, has not directly commented on Mr Ballard’s candidacy but has stated his intention to run for a second term .

“I have been overwhelmed by the support I have received in the past and I am honored to serve as a Congressman from Montana,” he said. “I hope I can once again count on the broad support of the Montanais as I run for re-election as their representative in Montana’s 2nd Congressional District.”

The freshman congressman had the backing of some of the biggest players in the Republican Party. He won his race by more than 10 points in 2020 and was backed by Parliamentary Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Whip Steve Scalise, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and Senator Ted Cruz from Texas.

Mr. Ballard has his work cut out for him.

“It’s a tough battle for this race, for sure. I think Rosendale is pretty much a candidate for re-election, ”said Jessikay Bennion, professor of political science at Montana State University.

Montana, which has a population of about one million, has had a general parliamentary district since 1990. Next year it will have two seats in the House for the first time in four decades.

The former general headquarters is now the 2nd Congressional District in eastern Montana.

The new seat of the 1st Congressional District in western Montana has already drawn a stampede of candidates from both sides of the aisle, including former Congressman and former Home Secretary Ryan Zinke in the GOP.

Democrats running for the open seat include former state lawmaker Tom Winter, state representative Laurie Bishop and Cora Neumann, a public health professional.

Mr. Ballard avoided this melee.

Mr Bennion said if Mr Ballard could showcase his background and distance himself from the extreme wing of his party, he could experience the same success as Senator Jon Tester, a longtime Democrat from Montana. who broke with the Democrats on the key. voice.

More recently, Mr. Tester joined his Republican colleagues in voting to repeal President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine or test mandate for private companies with 100 or more employees.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin III, another decisive vote, was the only other Democrat to break ranks with his party in the vote.

Mr Tester said his advice for Democrats to win back rural areas is to show up, even in places where they might not get the most support.

“They just need to come out and let people know what they stand for, what they are going to fight for. Go everywhere, ”Tester said in an interview.

Mr Ballard acknowledged that party divisions are glaring in his state, but said he believes his candidacy is stronger, even as a Democrat, because he can mark his humble beginnings.

“I think rural people would prefer to be represented by someone who really understands their world,” Ballard said. “I really think that’s one of my strongest assets in this campaign.”

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