Juneau fights to make history in bid for Congress


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    MISSOULA, Mont. - When asked who she looks up to, Montana's Democratic U.S. House candidate Denise Juneau doesn't skip a beat.

    "Elouise Cobell," Juneau answered in an interview with NBC Montana during a campaign visit to Missoula a few weeks before election day. "(Cobell) was a person (who) came from the Blackfeet Reservation. She was the treasurer for the tribe, and she found some missed deeds. The federal government was not paying individual Indians the worth of their land or their leases -- money they were due through that. And she took the federal government to court."

    It took 14 years, but Cobell made history, settling what many regard as the largest ever class-action lawsuit against the United States for $3.4 billion, benefiting more than 250,000 Native Americans.

    Juneau is fighting to make a bit of history herself. If victorious, she would be the first American Indian woman elected to Congress, the first openly gay congresswoman and the first female to represent Montana in Congress since Jeannette Rankin was elected almost 100 years ago to the day, on November 7, 1916.

    "It's time for the second woman in Montana to be elected to Congress. We get one voice for 1 million Montanans. That voice should actually be someone who is present, who has a record of accomplishment," Juneau said.

    The two-term State Superintendent of Public Instruction has her work cut for her, fighting to unseat Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke, a well-known retired U.S. Navy SEAL.

    Juneau, carrying degrees from MSU, UM, and Harvard, touts the implementation of a program called Graduation Matters as a signature accomplishment.

    "With Graduation Matters Montana we're working with 58 communities across the state. Eighty percent of students who are attending a school are attending a school where there's a Graduation Matters initiative," Juneau said. "It's really been great to see these grassroots, community-based efforts bubble up and create these historically great graduation rates."

    Juneau has used harsh words to criticize Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, but she said a Clinton victory won't be without its issues.

    "If Clinton gets in there are some issues around. We need to make sure Montana's coal industry continues, and some of those policies that she has in mind might go too far. I'm also a strong supporter of the second amendment. We need to make sure that we are protecting law abiding citizens' rights to purchase guns and have access to guns."

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