Montana Mint: Mark Wicks on the Trump presidency, educational choices & great Montana pizza
Editor’s note: Today, we present Montana Mint’s Q&A with Libertarian Mark Wicks, who is seeking the state’s open seat in the U.S. House in the May 25 special election. You’ll find the Q&A with Democrat Rob Quist here. Republican candidate Greg Gianforte has not responded to the Mint’s request for a Q&A. When he does, we will publish that interview as well.
By Montana Mint
Mark Wicks, an Inverness cattle rancher and author, is the Libertarian Party candidate running for Montana’s open congressional seat. He sat down with the Montana Mint to talk about his campaign, why Democrats and Republicans should vote third party, and his book The Wrath of the Dodo. Unlike his fellow candidates, Wicks campaigns without a staff, without fulltime volunteers, and with little to no financial assistance from party he represents.
This is part of a candidate interview series for our weekly political newsletter Hashtag MTPOL. You can sign up to receive the newsletter here. Check out last week’s interview with Rob Quist here. Hopefully an interview with Republican Greg Gianforte will be coming soon (get back to us, GG!).
Below you will find our interview, slightly edited and reordered for clarity.
Tell me about life on the campaign. Where have you been campaigning and what is your plan between now and May 25?
We’ve been over to Missoula a couple times and Helena. Right now, we aren’t nearly as well-funded as the other campaigns. I’m putting a lot of time on the internet trying to get the word out that way because it is cheap. We’re trying to use any free media we can get a hold of to help get the word out.
One of the promises I made was to show people that you don’t have to spend millions of dollars to run a good campaign.
I can’t quite seem to get a straight answer from anyone on this: is there going to be a debate, and if so, are you invited?
I know they are planning one in Billings. I’m trying to get in on that one, but have not yet been invited. [My opponents] do not want to get on the same stage as me because they both feel like they’re going to lose votes to me. [note: the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports Quist and Gianforte will debate in Great Falls on April 29]
What is your pitch to a liberal voter in Montana as to why they should vote for you instead of Rob Quist?
Socially, we have a lot of the same social idea. Things that the Republicans have fought against, Libertarians don’t care. We are not concerned with gay marriage. We just want people to be free and enjoy themselves as long as they can do it without hurting other people or taking their things. Democrats seem to like that.
Is there an area where you differ from Rob Quist and think that this difference would be appealing to a Montana Democrat?
I probably differ from him on a lot of things. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a socialist. I lived in a socialist country (Sweden) and don’t want to see this country become socialist. The biggest thing is, we have to pay our bills. I don’t see where Mr. Quist is giving solutions as to where he is paying for these free programs he keeps telling everyone he’s in favor of. It’s pretty easy to get elected if you promise everything to everyone. It’s a little harder when it comes time to pay for them.
What’s your pitch to Republican voters? Why should they vote for you over Greg Gianforte?
Greg Gianforte goes really far right, especially on religious issues. He’s apparently not in favor of gay marriage. Libertarians don’t care because it doesn’t affect us. I’m very pro-gun. Probably one of the most pro-gun candidates that’s came along in a long time. I’m very fiscally conservative. For a conservative voter, we will probably line up 85 percent of the time on our views.
Third parties have a reputation of playing spoiler in Montana politics. In 2006, Jon Tester beat Conrad Burns by 3,500 votes while Libertarian candidate Stan Jones got 10,000 votes. In 2012, Jon Tester beat Denny Rehbergh by 18,000 votes, and Libertarian Dan Cox got almost 32,000 votes. Montana’s congressional delegation would likely be much more conservative if it wasn’t for the Libertarian Party.
Is this a concern you hear from voters? If so, how do you justify your candidacy to them?
I’ve had some people say, “Why don’t you drop out?” In the last election, Greg Gianforte received 100,000 less votes than Tim Fox, a fellow Republican. That means 100,000 Republicans refused to vote for him. If the same 100,000 voters voted for me, I wouldn’t be the spoiler. I’d probably win this race.
If you’re elected, what would be the first bill you introduce?
One of the things I’m seeing that is getting out of control is activist judges. I would introduce a bill for the impeachment of any judge that is not following the Constitution and is making law from the bench. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals I would look at real close. I’d see which ones of those should be up for articles of impeachment. Judges are taking away power from the Congress and they shouldn’t. I know that’s not a real shiny issue that Montanans are really worried about, but it is something that needs to happen. The Judicial Branch and the Executive Branch need to be brought back into line in order for the government to function correctly and constitutionally.
There are a couple independents in the U.S. Senate, and they caucus with the Democratic Party. If elected, you’d be the only independent in the House. Have you given thought on if you’d caucus with the Democrats or the Republicans?
I’m sure I’d probably caucus with Republicans. If I didn’t caucus with anyone, I’d lose a lot of power that I have.
The great thing about being a Libertarian and going to Congress is when there is a news conference and the Republicans give their view and the Democrats give their view, when they are looking for the next view, they’re going to come to the leader of the Libertarian Party in Washington. That would be me because I’d be the only one there. It would bring some power to Montana.
If Mr. Quist gets out there, he’s going to have to learn to say “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am” because he is going to take his orders directly from Nancy Pelosi and he’s going to go fall into line just like they always do…He’s not going to have the autonomy to do what’s best for Montana. And Mr. Gianforte is going to have the same problem, …he’s going to get back there and he’s going to be given his marching orders and told what to do.
We’re almost at 100 days of the Trump Presidency. What grade would you give the President so far?
Today. I would say maybe a B minus.
Did you vote for President Trump over Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson?
I did. I felt like we had to keep one out and get the other in. In that case, I felt like we didn’t have much choice. Hillary was so corrupt. It’s really obvious that since she has lost the election, the donations to her foundation have dried almost entirely up. If she hadn’t been corrupt, those donations would still be coming in. But they are done. Her access to Washington has ended and so did her pay day.
On education, you highlight on your website that your kids went to public school and received a good education. The Montana Libertarian Party platform says that education is best provided by the free market. Is this something you disagree with your party on?
We are split in the middle. Public education pretty much has to be as it is in a Class C school. There are not enough kids to go out and start a private school and make it successful. There are some home schoolers that do well, but Class C schools are in a class of their own. Even Class B schools, it would be hard for another school to come in and be able to get enough students to thrive. But you get into your Class A, Class AA towns, there is enough room in those towns for competition. And I think that’s good.
I would also like to see an option for the kids that want to get into a skilled trade to be able to do that at an earlier age. Even in our Class C schools we are seeing kids dropping out sophomore or junior year because traditional school is not for them. It doesn’t work. If a lot of these kids had a chance to work on a trade, they would do it. Then they’d be very successful in life. These skilled trades pay very well, but you have to get your foot in the door to learn them.
The big debate in Congress right now is how to handle the investigation into Russia’s influence in our election and President Trump’s ties to Russia. How do you think the investigation should be conducted?
I think it’s a load of crap, to start with. We know that Russia has always tried to put a little finger in there, but I can’t imagine any reason why Trump would be involved with the Russians. It is something to take our minds off what’s going on. I could be completely wrong, maybe something will come out, but I think we’re going to find out there wasn’t any smoke, there wasn’t any fire.
So do you think they should even be investigating?
I think they’re going to have to because there are just too many people that are looking at it, and they probably are going to have to appoint a special prosecutor to look into it. I don’t think they’ll find anything. You know, I’ve sat there for the last eight years when special prosecutors weren’t appointed numerous times and was very upset when they weren’t. I think now that the shoe is on the other foot, to be fair, that the Republicans need to be investigated if there is a hint of wrongdoing.
In your opinion, what is the best pizza in the state?
Stretches Pizza in Malta. They are good. We travel through there selling fruit and we like to stop and get a pizza if we have time. Now I delivered and made pizzas for two years at Stageline Pizza, so I feel like I’m kind of a connoisseur of pizza. Stageline Pizza is pretty good too.
Out of all Montana politicians, past and present, which one do you most admire?
I really liked Conrad Burns until he voted for the National Defense Authorization Act. Up until that point, I liked him quite a bit.
You wrote a book called The Wrath of the Dodo. How did this come together?
In the winter up here, we got a lot of hours and a lot of long nights. It was something to keep me busy. When we’re out farming, going in circles all day, a lot of times we can’t pick up a radio station. So your mind just sits there and works and that’s how I came up with these ideas. I wrote that book, and I got about three or four more that are almost done. I got about halfway through the sequel because a lot of people have been asking for it.
It has a 4.5 star rating on Amazon.
Yep. None of those are bought or paid. Those are genuine book reviews. I’ve never had anyone tell me they didn’t like it.
Last question. Toughest question we ask of every cndidate and the most divisive question in the state. Come November, who are you rooting for in Cat/Griz?
I spent a lot of good years at MSU Bozeman so I got to go with the Cats.