A recently formed nonprofit organization made up of volunteers from around the State of Montana set out this week with an intent to recruit citizens to run in the 2024 election in an ultimate goal of not leaving a single elective office uncontested.
Brand Montana President Jami Woodman and Vice President Sue Orr made a stop in Glendive on Thursday as part of their tour around the Treasure State.
The nonpartisan organization officially obtained its nonprofit status on March 2 and has a mission to “educate Montana voters about the importance of competitive and fair elections.”
“We just believe that people need to have choices,” Orr said. “In a lot of rural areas, there is only one choice of someone to vote for.”
According to information from Orr, there were a total of 35 uncontested seats in the State of Montana during the 2022 election.
“I don’t think it’s a democracy when you don’t have a choice,” Woodman said.
The purpose of Orr and Woodman’s tour around Montana is twofold: to hear what local people in each community know about the work their state, regional and local leaders do, as well as find those who may have an interest in campaigning for an election against other candidates in upcoming elections.
Woodman noted she believes too many elected officials are more focused on addressing nationwide social issues rather than concerning themselves with the direct needs of their constituents. She added both are important, however the latter should come first.
“I would like leadership in our state that cares about every single person in this state, not just those in Helena and Missoula and Bozeman,” she said. “The disconnect between western Montana and eastern Montana is unacceptable.”
Brand Montana is focused on providing the citizens of Montana with choices; not choices of party affiliation, rather choices of candidates who stand for the values and needs of the people of the state.
As an admonishment closer to home, Woodman noted that the citizens of Glendive should exercise their right and responsibility to participate in local and state government affairs in order to maintain a way of life that she believes is unlike any other state in the United States.
“The people of Glendive need to understand that they need to know and pay attention to what their representative is doing and how he or she is voting for them or against them,” she said.
Although naming a great majority of Dawson County’s representatives at the state level who they believe have not listened to their constituents, they commended two people holding positions on the Montana Public Service Commission for their work for the people of eastern Montana.
PSC Commissioners Randy Pinocci and Tony O’Donnell — both representing Eastern Montana counties — were the only two out of five commissioners to vote against Montana-Dakota Utilities’ interim rate increase leading up to the hearing regarding their request to increase residential electric service rates by 19.2% sometime this summer.
“I want to shout out to the two of them who voted against this rate hike,” Woodman said. “They deserve credit.”
In an effort to prevent another election with so many incumbents left uncontested, Brand Montana is attempting to recruit and assist as many candidates as possible who will run in the 2024 election.
“Our goal, and it’s a hefty goal, is to not have one uncontested seat,” Woodman said. “That’s what it is, to help (candidates) money wise, to help them with their campaign, to spend time over here and find candidates from here; people who are willing to run and represent where they live and represent the people, not a party.”
Orr and Woodman plan to return to Glendive at a later date as they work over the next year to recruit “good people” as candidates for the 2024 election cycle.
“I have nothing against anybody with an ‘R’ or ‘D’ beside their name as long as they’re looking out for the entire state and not their hind pocket,” Woodman said.
For more information about Brand Montana, or if you are interested in utilizing their service to run in an upcoming election, visit www.brandmontana.org.