Election 2018: NRA, Montana Native Vote announce endorsements in U.S. House race

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

Election 2018 is coming up the front walk, and candidates are furiously stating their cases, crowding the airwaves and collecting endorsements.

This week’s new endorsements came in the race for Montana’s single seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, where Democrat Kathleen Williams is challenging one-term incumbent Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte.

Here’s what happened:

Montana Native Vote, a civic action group focused on organizing around Native American communities and issues, announced its endorsement of Williams during a visit by the candidate to the Fort Belknap Tribal Council.

“We appreciate Kathleen’s commitment and action toward improving the lives of Native American families while serving in the Montana State Legislature,” said Rhonda Whiteman, chair of Montanan Native Vote and an enrolled member of the Crow Nation. “She will be a critical voice for Indigenous action in the United States House of Representatives. We look forward to working with her to create and advance policy changes for the betterment of Montana’s Native Americans.”

In a written statement, Whiteman said much is at stake for Indian Country in November’s midterm elections.

Her group is working to get Native voters to the polls so they pick leaders at all levels who are advocates for Indian Country. Whiteman said the current presidential administration, which Gianforte supports, “continuously attempts to undermine tribal sovereignty and back out of trust responsibilities to tribes regarding health care.”

In response, Williams released this statement:

“It was an honor to meet with the Fort Belknap Tribal Council and I will continue to reach out to Montana’s Native American population to hear what they have to say. As Montana’s next U.S. representative, I’ll work every day to preserve the proud values and history of Native people and ensure that federal policy incorporates Tribal interests.”

Williams recently released a list of priorities for Indian Country which focuses on “addressing violence against Native women, ratifying tribal water compacts, and finding ways to create jobs and build infrastructure.”

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Gianforte picked up a key, albeit expected, endorsement when the NRA called for his reelection and gave the congressman an “A” rating.

The National Rifle Association has more than 5 million members nationwide.

In a release announcing the group’s pick, Gianforte said that as “a lifelong sportsman and life member of the NRA, I will always wear this endorsement proudly.”

Gianforte shared the news with supporters via an email, telling them that “liberals in Washington want us to be ashamed that we support the Second Amendment. Friend, they just don’t get the Montana way of life!”

In his email, Gianforte said he will “always protect our Montana way of life and fearlessly defend the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Montanans against the anti-gun extremists, liberal special interest groups and progressive politicians who threaten them.”

The congressman said “the Left” desperately wants to defeat him in November. But “if I lose … they will be one vote closer to restricting our rights.”

Williams, too, is a hunter, gun owner and supporter of lawful gun ownership.

She has, however, been forceful in calling for the changes she and others believe are needed to protect schoolchildren from gun massacres.

“Kathleen’s family has shotguns and rifles, but they never felt the need to own an AR-15,” Williams said in a statement on gun violence and the Second Amendment. “Military-style rifles need to be confined to controlled environments, like machine guns are today. We also must regulate bump stocks and ensure our background check system keeps guns out of the hands of people who should not own them.”

Williams said she “supports the Second Amendment. … But four courts have declined to extend Second Amendment protections to military-style weapons. These are firearms designed to kill and maim quickly and broadly, not hunting equipment or for self-defense.”

As a Montana state legislator, Williamsvoted against bills that would have deregulated guns on college campuses and allowed people to carry guns in all bars, restaurants, and churches.

In Congress, she said, she “will work with anyone to pass common sense reforms that keep our children safe from gun massacres.”