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Election 2018: Gabby Giffords endorses Williams; Daines backs 6-mill levy

Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords suffered permanent injuries in a mass shooting at a meet-and-greet with constituents in 2009.

Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has endorsed Democrat Kathleen Williams for Montana’s sole seat in the U.S. House, hailing her “courageous stand” against legislative attempts to weaken the state’s gun laws.

Giffords, who with her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, founded a gun safety organization after she was shot during a meet-and-greet with constituents in 2009, made the endorsement as part of her “VoteCourage campaign to elect gun reform candidates nationwide.

“Kathleen Williams, a former state legislator, is a proud gun owner, but she’s running for Congress to do what’s best for Montana families, not corporate gun manufacturers,” Giffords said in the campaign announcement. “In the Legislature, Kathleen courageously stood firm against attempts to weaken gun laws in Montana, which has one of the highest firearm death rates in the nation.

“In Congress, she will support closing loopholes that allow domestic abusers, stalkers, and other dangerous individuals to acquire firearms.”

“Politicians bought and paid for by the gun lobby to defend the firearms industry can no longer get away with saying thoughts and prayers and then staying silent,” Giffords said. “They can no longer say acts of violence are acts of nature, beyond our control. They are not, and the American people know it. They’re tired of politicians who claim to represent them failing to take action to keep them safe.”

In the endorsement announcement, Giffords took aim at Republican incumbent Rep. Greg GIanforte, contending that although he “has been in Congress for little more than a year, but he’s already one of the House of Representative’s top beneficiaries of corporate gun lobby money. The NRA spent over $300,000 to help get Gianforte elected, and he’s returned the favor by supporting legislation to deregulate silencers, which would gut an existing, effective law that has been on the books for over 80 years.

“Montana has the highest suicide rate in the nation, yet Gianforte has also refused to stand for common-sense measures that would help keep firearms out the hands of individuals in crisis.”

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While candidates like to tout the endorsements they pick up in the months preceding a general election, incumbents are free to devote their attention to endorsing ballot measures.

Thus comes Montana Sen. Steve Daines’ recent endorsement of Legislative Referendum 128, which would renew Montana’s six-mill levy for public colleges ad universities.

“As the first Montana State University graduate to serve in Congress, I know first-hand the important role that Montana’s public colleges and universities hold in providing Montana students with a top-tier education,” Daines said in the endorsement announcement. “I join Montana voters in supporting the continuation of common sense investments in our schools so that future generations can also benefit from our state’s public education system.”

The levy has been in place for nearly 70 years and provides nearly $20 million annually in support for the Montana University System.

The referendum has also received the bipartisan support of Montana state representatives and senators, as well as a multitude of business and community leaders, including the Montana Chamber of Commerce, Montana Farm Bureau Federation, The Montana Economic Developers Association and the Montana Federation of Public Employees.

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It’s unusual, for sure, but Sen. Jon Tester’s reelection campaign is enthused by their boss’s endorsement by Big Dipper ice cream.

The senator and his staff will scoop ice cream at the Montana Democratic Party’s Missoula field office at 11:45 a.m. Monday, when he’ll reveal two new flavors of “Tester-related” Big Dipper ice cream.

He’ll also use the occasion to let volunteers know “how they can get involved and build on the grassroots energy for the upcoming election,” according to a news release.

The ice cream social is a prelude to the senator’s biggest celebrity endorsement, which comes Monday night when Pearl Jam appears in concert at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, in part to tout his candidacy and to get out the vote in November.

There, he’ll have a captive audience of 25,000 fans. Tester’s association with Pearl Jam goes back to its earliest days; he and bassist Jeff Ament are friends from their days growing up in Big Sandy.