Jonathon Ambarian

HELENA (KPAX) — Ryan Busse, a Democratic candidate running for governor, laid out some of the policy priorities his campaign will be focusing on this year at an appearance in Helena Tuesday.

Busse is a former firearms executive and now author and activist from Kalispell. In a news conference at the Montana State Capitol, he positioned himself as “diametrically opposed” to incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte.

“It’s critical that we make the changes in this state to get our state back,” Busse said.

Busse called for shifting a greater percentage of property taxes in the state from residential to commercial property, and he said too many Montanans didn’t receive the recent property tax rebates.

He criticized the Gianforte administration for its handling of a review of Medicaid eligibility, saying it has led to too many Montanans – especially children – losing health coverage. And he accused Gianforte of being insufficiently transparent in his dealings with the public, and he said the administration is threatening personal freedoms – particularly through the governor’s support of abortion restrictions.

Busse said he believes Gianforte and Republican leaders in the Montana Legislature are out of step with some members of their own party. In several cases, he described the administration’s policies as “fascist.”

“This hard-right, radicalized Republican supermajority and the governor that supports them – this is not your grandfather’s or your father’s or your mother’s or your grandmother’s GOP,” he said. “This is something very dangerous.”

While Republicans have had the advantage over Democrats in recent statewide elections, Busse said he believes he will be able to find common ground with GOP voters who share some of the same concerns he has.

“There are tons – thousands, hundreds of thousands of good, common-sense, well-meaning people in this state who call themselves Republicans; I meet them all the time,” he said. “I don't think they're okay with this small sliver of Republican leadership that has become radicalized and is speaking for them and giving the state a bad name. I’m calling on common-sense, decent Republicans to stand up and say, ‘No, this is not us.’”

Gianforte launched his campaign for a second term last week, highlighting his efforts to make the state more business-friendly, cut back what he sees as unnecessary regulations and pass an extensive package of tax rebates and longer-term tax reductions. State Rep. Tanner Smith, R-Lakeside, has also announced he’s running for governor.