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Gallatin County Republican candidates debate on Thursday night

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: Apr 10 2014 11:00:02 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Republican candidates took the podium on at Montana State University to debate key issues ahead of the primary election.

Here's a list of the candidates at the debate:

Barb Blum and Don Seifert for Gallatin County Commission,

Jedediah Hinkle and Bruce Robertson for Senate District 32,

Gordy Vance and Ted Washburn for Senate District 34,
 
Eric Fulton and Michael More for House District 65,

Ed Johnson and Mary MacLaren for House District 66,

and Matthew Monforton, running for House District 69. His opponent, Mike Houghton, did not attend.

Each debate lasted 15 minutes, and the candidates were asked questions ranging from political philosophies to education to health care.

First up, the race for Gallatin County Commission. The candidates told the audience what they thought was in store for the future of Gallatin County:

"We need to have responsible, open, transparent growth," said candidate Donald Seifert.
 
"Private property rights and individual rights, making sure those are protected," explained candidate Barb Blum.

Next, Senate District 34, which covers Belgrade and the surrounding area. They discussed energy in Montana.

"It's important that we harvest the natural resources that we've got," said candidate Ted Washburn.

"The state of Montana has created a horribly unfair playing field based on the tremendous tax breaks that are given to wind and to solar," candidate Gordy Vance said.

Next up, the debate for House District 66, which includes downtown and parts of Bozeman. They discussed their priority issues.

"The non-discrimination ordinance is a blow to the family, to the traditional family," said candidate Mary MacLaren.

"I feel as if our education system is not working enough for Montana students," said 21-year-old candidate Ed Johnson.

For House District 65, in the southeast area of Bozeman, candidates were asked if they supported legalizing marijuana in Montana. They each had a different take.

"I'm glad that other states have taken the leap into looking into legalizing it," explained candidate Eric Fulton, "because it allows Montana to take a step back and wait and watch."

Candidate Michael More disagreed, explaining, "the damage that marijuana did in its short stint of relatively free distribution in the state had great harm in our school systems."

The Senate District 32 candidates, which covers the area west of Bozeman down through West Yellowstone, were asked if they supported the expansion of Medicaid. And again, different answers.

"Medicaid expansion may be the answer, but if we choose that route, we have to do it responsibly," said candidate Bruce Robertson, who is a practicing medical doctor.

"The fiscal issues that Medicaid brings is astronomical for the state," said opponent Jedediah Hinkle.

Residents at the debate said they attended because they want to know where each candidate stands on important issues, before they cast their ballot in the primary elections.

The primary election is on June 3, 2014.