Occupation: Public Defender for the State of Montana.
Family: Member of a large mountain family. His mother runs a 200-head cattle ranch outside of Boulder, and his father is an architect who specializes in preserving historic buildings. His sister is finishing law school and his brothers are involved in welding, architecture, healthcare, and metal fabrication in Montana. His girlfriend is a dog groomer in Billings.
Education: Law degree from the University of Montana, a master’s degree in public administration from the Middlebury Institute and a bachelor’s degree in history from Washington State University.
Previous employment: Has held various positions with the Montana Public Defender’s Office over the past decade, including advocacy in various courtrooms across the state; provide legal education courses; and manage/mentor other lawyers. He also interned for Senator Max Baucus, worked at a law firm while in college, and spent years working at McDonald’s.
Past political experience: Elected National Delegate to the 2020 Democratic National Convention; Montana Democratic Party Platform Convention Member; former member of the State Committee for the Lewis and Clark Country Democrats; former candidate for judge of Butte City; current chairman of the Yellowstone County Democrat precinct.
Amendments: Raph Graybill, former attorney general appointee; former congressional candidate John Heenan; former Billings judicial nominee Juli Pierce; former state senator Kendall Van Dyk; Current State Representatives Rob Farris-Olsen, Mary Ann Dunwell, and Danny Tenenbaum; Rob Stanton, teacher at Billings West; attorney Gene Jarussi; Jim Corson, former US Senate staffer.
Address: PO box 22301, Billings, MT 59104
1. When legislators stop listening to their constituents, it’s time to change legislators. The issues and concerns that Billings constituents tell me about when I meet them door to door will be my agenda for the legislative session. I will keep constituents informed of important bills through my website and social media. If you send me an e-mail or an SMS, I will answer you. If you call me, I’ll answer. What you tell me affects my vote. I will listen to voters and anyone with good ideas, but I will not be captivated by television pundits, lobbyists or party leaders.
2. The three most important issues that constituents talk to me about are property taxes/housing costs, public safety and the price of health care. Seniors on fixed incomes need protection from property tax increases.
As a public defender, I see how public safety affects our community of Billings. The deterrence of crime is brought about by the certainty of punishment, not by the severity of the punishment. Instead of building more prisons, we need to provide more funding and training to help the police solve more crimes. Using my background in criminal law, I will work on fixes to our probation rules and juvenile laws to promote rehabilitation and reduce recidivism.
3. The legislature must give local governments more creative options for paying for essential services in addition to property taxes, such as reallocating revenue from hotel, marijuana, and alcohol taxes. We should reduce property taxes for residential, commercial and industrial properties (Class 4), review rates for high-end business equipment (Class 8), and repeal a tax break for securities dealers.
I don’t support CI-121 because we don’t need to bring dysfunction from California to Montana. CI-121 would shift property taxes from residential properties to commercial properties. This would hurt businesses in Billings and increase rents as many apartments are classified as commercial properties.
4. It’s a solvable problem! The bipartisan Federal Infrastructure Act allocated billions of dollars to replace lead pipes. I will sponsor a statewide plan that will use these federal dollars to replace lead plumbing in all schools in Montana. School districts will have a say in the implementation of the project, but will be guided by a blueprint designed to cut red tape and remove lead pipes from our schools as quickly as possible. Lead in our school water is a health hazard to our young people and its elimination must be a top priority.
5. I would choose DPHHS and its approach to mental health. Too often local resources cannot treat someone with a mental health crisis, so they go to Warm Springs instead. Unfortunately, insufficient funding and mismanagement recently caused the federal government to withdraw funds from the Montana State Hospital, putting lives at risk.
I will use my experience in patient representation to rewrite our laws of engagement to deliver effective local treatment. I support the creation of more community mental health hospitals in Montana so patients can stay closer to home and support systems. A rebuilt public hospital would serve as a last resort.