Voters hear from senate, house candidates at Butte debate


BUTTE, Mont. - Voters got to hear directly from the U.S. House and Senate candidates on Saturday in Butte at the first official debate of the general election season. The debate pitted U.S. Senator John Walsh, a democrat, against republican challenger Steve Daines, and the Libertarian candidate Roger Roots. Throughout the afternoon, all eyes were on Walsh and Daines as they went head to head, not holding anything back. "Congressman Daines spent about 6 or 7 years in China working for a company who was shutting down factories here in the United States," said Walsh. "John Walsh was in Billings recently at an anti-coal rally and there were some members of some of the unions there that saw him embracing some of these extreme activists that seek to shut down the coal business," said Daines. The two candidates could agree on a few topics, like the state of the government. "There is a lack of transparency in Washington, career politicians put their own self interest ahead of doing what is right for the people," said Daines. "Washington is broken, Washington has a spending problem," said Walsh. They also agreed about the current state of the VA, both candidates say they support the best care for veterans. "As a son of a veteran, dad taught me of service and sacrifice, and also the importance to make sure we keep our promises to our veterans," said Daines. "When they come home they should be awarded, and receive the health care they deserve," said Walsh. Another hot button issues the candidates touched on was the federal minimum wage. Right now the White House is pushing to raise the minimum wage across the board. It is an idea clearly divided along party lines. "I support raising the minimum wage to a livable wage," said Walsh. "It should be a conversation that we should not have with President Obama and congress telling us what to do," said Daines. The conversation also turned to international issues happening now, like the conflict and unrest in Iraq. "I honestly do not believe that we should have sent our men and women, knowing what we know today, into Iraq," said Walsh. "I don't believe we should commit boots on the ground in Iraq but I do believe we need to be more proactive," said Daines. Three candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives also battled it out in Butte on Saturday. Republican candidate Ryan Zinke, democrat John Lewis and libertarian Mike Fellows all took the stage. They covered tough similar issues like immigration policy, health care and the federal minimum wage. Zinke touched on his military history, and support of the second amendment. While democratic candidate John Lewis talked about working across party lines and advocating for affordable healthcare. In light of the recent school shootings in Portland and Seattle, one panelist asked what should be done to solve this growing problem. "Address how we treat mental health care in this country, and clearly we are not doing a good enough job at that so that is where we should start," said Lewis. "Guns, I think better education, you know make sure parents keep them locked up in a home, you know certainly guns in schools that should be up to the local school boards," said Zinke. "We have the right to own firearms, and I don't think its any of the governments business what kind or what type we obviously own," said Fellows. The U.S. House race is a key race in 2014 for Lewis and the democratic party. Back in 2012, republican Steve Daines easily won the open U.S. House Seat. Winning that seat is something democrats have not done since Pat Williams won re-election in 1994.