Election 2018: AFL-CIO, Emily’s List, sportsmen, firefighters announce endorsements

Rep. Greg Gianforte, left, and Kathleen Williams, his Democratic opponent in November’s general election.

Campaign season is throttling up in Montana and candidates are not only busy traveling the state but also collecting the endorsement of special interest groups.

Each Monday, Missoula Current will publish a roundup of the endorsements we received during the preceding week, with a brief explanation of why each group is backing a particular candidate.

After that, it’s up to you to decide who’ll get your vote come November.

Montana AFL-CIO: The 50,000 Montana workers represented by the AFL-CIO have endorsed Sen. Jon Tester’s reelection bid. In a written statement, executive secretary Al Ekblad explained: “Jon has never faltered in his fight for Montana workers. Here in Big Sky Country, we have a strong and important tradition of protecting laborers, and Jon Tester has carried out that tradition.”

Ekblad went on to cite Tester’s support for a higher minimum wage, collective bargaining rights and policies that require the government to use American-made products for infrastructure projects.

EMILY’S List: The nation’s largest resource for women in politics has endorsed Democrat Kathleen Williams’ campaign for Montana’s single seat in the U.S. House.

Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, released this statement: “I am so excited that EMILY’s List is standing alongside my fellow Montanan Kathleen Williams in her fight to win this seat. She is the representative who Montanans deserve in Congress, whose track record serves as proof that she is committed to expanding and protecting access to affordable, quality health care. As a state legislator, not only did Kathleen champion health care, but she also fought to make taxes fairer for working families and expand economic opportunity. She has the leadership to do the same in Washington for Montana.

“Greg Gianforte has been an embarrassment to our state, having already pled guilty to assault in his first year in office. I plan to personally rally the entire EMILY’s List community around Kathleen’s campaign and show her our full support in helping her flip this seat.”

Montana State Council of Professional Fire Fighters: “Sen. Jon Tester has been a grizzly bear in the Senate for getting Montana’s firefighters the resources we need to stay safe as we keep Montana safe,” Joel Fassbinder, president of the Montana State Council of Professional Fire Fighters, said in announcing the group’s senatorial endorsement. “Jon has always stood with our firefighters. We are grateful for Jon’s strong advocacy in Washington, and we are proud to endorse him in his campaign to return to the Senate.”

The group cited Tester’s bill to reauthorize funding for the Assistance to Firefighters and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant programs, which was signed by President Trump earlier this Congress. The grants help fire departments fund staffing, training and equipment.

Planned Parenthood Action Fund: Noting his support for women’s health care and increased access to affordable health care for all Montanans, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund endorsed Sen. Jon Tester in his campaign against Republican State Auditor Matt Rosendale.

“Throughout his tenure in the Senate, Senator Jon Tester has been an ardent champion for the over 10,000 Planned Parenthood patients in the state,” said Martha Stahl, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana. “He has worked continuously to protect their access to the full range of reproductive health care, and we know he will fight back against any attack that threatens that access.

Tester received a 100 percent rating from the Action Fund for “consistently defending reproductive rights and a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.”

Montana Sportsmen Alliance: Tester also picked up the endorsement of the Montana Sportsmen Alliance for his defense of public lands and support for the state’s outdoor economy and its 70,000 related jobs.

The group mentioned the senator’s opposition to barriers to public access and to efforts to sell or transfer federal public lands into private ownership.

“Jon understands that here in Montana, being able to use this state’s natural resources for hunting, angling and recreation isn’t just our hobby, it’s our heritage,” said Joe Perry, president of the Montana Sportsmen Alliance, in a statement. “We owe it to the next generation of Montanans to preserve our public lands so they can enjoy the same kind of access we do.”

Montana Federation of Public Employees: The state’s largest labor union – the result of a merger of the MEA-MFT and MPEA – also has endorsed Tester’s senatorial campaign.

MFPE represents public school teachers, higher education faculty and staff, state and local government employees, Head Start workers, and health care employees.

A former teacher, Tester was lauded by the union for his support of minimum wage increases, opposition to right-to-work efforts and support for collective bargaining rights.

“Senator Tester is right on labor, right on public education, right on health care, right on adequate and fair taxation, right on veterans, right on public access to public lands, right for Montana,” said Eric Feaver, president of MFPE. “He is Montana’s proven champion in the U.S. Senate.  We are grateful for his support.”