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Voices: Gianforte puts Montanans’ health at risk

Cora Neumann

The gubernatorial election this November was always going to be consequential. Then the COVID-19 pandemic changed the lives of everyone in our state. Now, as Montanans look to choose our next Governor, we have a responsibility to elect a leader we can trust to lead our state through this public health emergency, and prioritize our lives and health over their own self-interest.

Montana’s next governor needs to be someone who will wholly dedicate themselves to guiding our state through this crisis; someone who will wake up every day ready to make difficult decisions that directly impact the lives of our friends and neighbors. Montana needs a governor who will put the job first, and rise to the challenges that we’re facing. Montana needs a governor who will — at the very least — show up.

Greg Gianforte will not be that governor.

Greg Gianforte has missed more votes than 93% of Congress. Let that sink in. Montana has one representative in the House — and we rely on our sole Congressman to show up and represent Montana’s interests.

But Gianforte evidently couldn’t be bothered to accomplish the bare minimum of what we sent him to Washington to do. As a result, Montana didn’t have a say in votes ranging from critical funding for education, to helping survivors of domestic abuse, to supporting our public health institutions and more. These are all major issues that affect Montanans every day, but Gianforte, through his laziness, silenced our voice in Congress.

This would be disqualifying under normal circumstances — but these are not normal circumstances. And Gianforte’s apathy towards his responsibilities as an elected official extends to putting Montana families, our state and our country directly in harm’s way. At a critical moment when he needed to vote to fund the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Greg Gianforte skipped out to fly from Washington D.C. on Air Force Two to announce his run for Governor.

The CDC is our first line of defense against the pandemic — and ensuring that the health care workers and scientists on the front lines have the resources they need has never been more important. But Gianforte placed his political ambitions before his responsibility as an elected official — over the health and safety of his constituents — and failed to show up for us.

It’s difficult to say what’s more disqualifying — Gianforte’s disregard for funding public health agencies, or his disregard for work in general. Greg Gianforte is so out of touch with Montana values, he thinks he can collect taxpayer-funded checks, fail to show up, and ask Montanans for a promotion. But for most Montanans, skipping work gets you fired, not promoted.

Now, more than ever, Montanans need a leader who will put our state and our families first. We need a leader who will show up to work every day, ready to make the difficult decisions that affect so many lives and livelihoods. We need a full-time Governor.

Gianforte has proven that he’s a no-show Congressman. We can’t afford to elect him our no-show Governor.

Dr. Cora Neumann is a public health expert and founder of We Are Montana. Cora serves on the board of Columbia University School of Public Health, is a member of the COVID Local taskforce, and worked on the 2014 Ebola response.