Kathleen Williams, the Democratic nominee in the race for Montana’s sole seat in the U.S. House, visited students at the University of Montana on Tuesday night to talk about climate change, health care and women’s health.
And about voting in next Tuesday’s critical midterm election.
With only seven days remaining in her campaign, Williams acknowledged that a recent poll from Gravis Marketing showed her tied with opponent and Republican incumbent Rep. Greg Gianforte.
The poll of 728 voters showed Gianforte and Williams each with 48 percent, and just 3 percent of respondents undecided. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percent.
“We are just sprinting, sprinting, sprinting to the finish line,” Williams told her UM audience. “If some of you are watching or paying attention to the polls, this race is getting tighter, tighter and tighter.”
Williams took one last opportunity to reach out to students in Missoula and responded to their concerns.
Health care was significant, and Williams said she voted in the Montana Legislature for Medicaid expansion, explaining that her health care plan puts a priority on children’s health insurance programs and rural health center funds.
Protections for those with pre-existing conditions and stabilizing the individual health insurance market are also highlighted in her proposal.
She remembered her own mother’s early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, when Williams was 11.
“We need to fix our health care system,” she told the Missoula Current. “We need to ensure that people on the individual market aren’t just dropped. We need some stability for them.”
Her proposal would allow people 55 and older to buy into Medicare, which she said would allow more competition in the marketplace and drive down costs for those on private plans.
It would allow for a fair, set premium for Medicare services that would be more affordable, Williams said.
“Once they tell their story, once we tell their story, I think that will be the trigger for a very productive national dialogue on a better health care system for everyone,” she said.
University of Montana law student Katy Lindberg asked about women’s health care, and said it’s a major issue for college students.
With Justice Brett Kavanaugh now on the U.S. Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade may be on the line, she said.
Williams responded: “While we’re hoping that the court continues to consider that settled law, we need to look to our state authorities. Montana has a very strong privacy clause in the state constitution, so we may be in a very fortunate place. We have to be vigilant on who decides who’s on courts, what their motivation might be, and make sure we take that into account when we’re at the ballot box and having civic dialogue.”
Lindberg said that leaving protections up to each individual state could do more harm than good.
“Her response focused on the state’s role, and while I agree with that, it is concerning when you have Southern states, Utah, states that have a very conservative leadership in their state government,” Lindberg said. “I think that something needs to be done at a federal level to protect Roe v. Wade and abortion access. I think leaving it to states is going to harm more women than it’s going to help.”
Williams also responded to questions about campaign finance reform.
The only way to address the Citizens United decision is by creating a constitutional amendment or overturning the law in the Supreme Court.
But there are other ways to improve transparency in campaign finances, Williams said.
“There are ways that you can nibble or bite around the edges,” she said. “There’s increasing transparency for donors, there’s electronic filing, or at least seeing donors earlier than [we] do now.
“Money can corrupt, and we need to address that, but we need to elect people that aren’t corruptible, that’s the other part. We need to elect people that don’t get diamonds in their eyes when they’re offered junkets.”
Henry Curtis, a senior at UM, said that campaign finance reform, along with health care, are two of the most important issues on his radar.
“America has become a country that does actually allow people across the board to vote,” Curtis said. “I personally believe that by allowing the richest Americans to have such a disproportionate impact on American discourse – on the actual positions and bills of our elected politicians – that is a travesty and completely contrary to what American should be.”
Williams explained that Congress needs civility and the ability for both parties to talk.
“That’s a lot of what’s inspiring me to run, is that Congress is about as close to broken as I can imagine and we need to send people there that are running for the right reasons, to be true public servants and represent all of Montana,” she said.