When Matt Jette found out Ryan Zinke was running for Congress again, he decided to pack up his life in Florida and move back to Montana.
Once he returned, the 49-year-old educator filed to run for Congress as a Republican in Montana’s western congressional district.
“I had a window there to enter the race against Ryan Zinke, and I found myself in two different races … one against Ryan Zinke and the other Republican candidates, but also for politics itself … That is to put what is good about our politics back into our politics. And that seems to be a harder race,” he told the Daily Montanan in a recent phone interview.
In the primary, Jette is going up against former Trump cabinet member Zinke, former State Sen. Al Olszewski, pastor Mary Todd and general contractor Mitch Heuer. Public health expert Cora Neumann, Missoula lawyer Monica Tranel and former state Rep. Tom Winter are all running for the seat as Democrats.
Jette teaches AP and regular government at Sentinel High School in Missoula and government at the University of Montana. After graduating from the University of Montana in the ’90s, he went on to earn degrees at Harvard University and Arizona State University.
According to the Daily Interlake, Jette previously ran for office when he lived in Arizona as a Republican candidate in a 2010 bid for governor and as a Democrat in a 2012 Congressional race, before switching his status to Independent.
Fittingly, Jette’s top priority is education.
“I would revamp education in America. I think much of our problems stemmed from just a decline in the quality of our education today … Better education leads to better voters, which leads to better candidates winning,” he said. “Money would not matter in elections, nor would those commercials or those posters or the billboards, none of those things would matter, because … and this is what the founding fathers wanted, the American mind to be enlightened. And we don’t have that today.”
To achieve that revamping of the education system, he said he would push for national school choice policies.
While school choice may be aligned with popular Republican ideology, Jette said he often gets accused of being a Democrat by his opponents for his views on things like abortion.
“I’m a pro-choice Republican … if you want to decrease the number of abortions, then Roe v. Wade is actually a good policy,” he said. “We need better education, better birth control, better availability of health care and rights for women. If you look around the world, no democracy is healthy without full rights of women, period.”
And unlike some of his primary opponents, he believes American elections are safe and secure. “If I have to hear the 2020 election was fraudulent, I’ll lose it,” he said.
But he said he is a Republican.
“I’m a free-market Republican. I believe in school choice. I believe in cutting regulations and rules to increase mobility, economic mobility, economic opportunity, economic freedom,” he said.
He also said he supports a Universal Basic Income.
“I believe in UBI, but I also believe in waning out welfare programs at the same time,” he said. “But I do think providing some stability in income gives people the freedom to pursue education; it gives them the freedom to pursue different skills,” which he said is necessary for the “complex global economy” we are in today.
Another thing that Jette said sets him apart is his ability to work across the political spectrum in Congress more so than his primary challengers.
“They’re very hard-nosed in their position, then their next sentence is ‘I’ll walk across the aisle.’ How can you possibly work across the aisle when you have those kinds of opinions? It doesn’t work that way,” he said.