Jonathon Ambrarian

BOZEMAN (KPAX) - We’re less than a month away from the first election in 30 years where Montana will select two members of the U.S. House.

In the state’s new western congressional district, Republican Ryan Zinke and Democrat Monica Tranel are engaged in a heated race.

Tranel says, traveling around the district, she’s found issues of growth and affordability are top-of-mind for many voters.

“Montanans are hurting, and the issue is housing — housing, housing, housing,” she said during an Oct. 1 debate in Bozeman, hosted by MTN.

Tranel has highlighted her four-point affordability plan.

It calls for investing in the American workforce and domestic manufacturing, and for standing up against corporate consolidation, which she said has allowed large companies to distort the market.

On housing, she said during the debate that she wants to expand tax credits for affordable developments and put restrictions on corporations that have been purchasing homes for investment purposes.

Tranel called for extended background checks on gun sales, saying it’s something she believes even some conservative people in the district would accept.

She also reiterated her strong support for abortion rights, painting it as an issue of individual privacy and freedom.

“I support your right to choose how, when and whether you become a parent — one of the most fundamental, most important decisions you will ever make in your life,” Tranel said. “It’s your private decision to make, and you have the freedom in America.”

Tranel is a former competitive rower who competed twice at the Olympics. She then went into law, serving as staff attorney for the Montana Public Service Commission and Montana Consumer Counsel and now working in private practice in Missoula.

In court, she has challenged large utilities like NorthWestern Energy and supported renewable energy producers.

Tranel said during the debate that the state’s rural counties can benefit from alternative energy development, and that it’s an issue that takes on added importance in light of ongoing extreme weather around the U.S.

“We need to address this issue – this is a math problem, it’s an engineering problem,” she said. “This is an incredibly exciting moment, and I believe in America, I believe in Montana. We’re the country that sent somebody to the moon. We know how to do this.”

Throughout the debate, Tranel’s main pitch to voters was that she’s been serving the people of this district for years and knows what it takes to keep doing it in Congress.

“I’ve been here, I’ve been with you, I’ve been by your side, I’ve been working for you,” she said.