Election Guide '22

The candidates and issues on Montana's 2022 ballot

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Mark Sweeney
Lost Democratic primary for U.S. House District 2 (East) in June 2022

Mark Sweeney

(Deceased) State senator from Philipsburg
None available
Active candidates in race

Sweeney, 62, died unexpectedly May 6, after primary ballots had been finalized. If he wins the Democratic primary posthumously, state law and party rules require the Montana Democratic Party to hold a nominating convention to select a new general election candidate.

Sweeney had served in the Montana Legislature since 2019 and had previously been an Anaconda-Deer Lodge county commissioner. He had said he was running this year to give Montana voters an alternative to incumbent Rep. Matt Rosendale.

This biography is based on public records and MTFP coverage following Sweeney’s death. Sweeney is unpictured here at the request of his family.

MTFP coverage

Reporting on this candidate published by the Montana Free Press newsroom.
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Campaign finance

Based on reporting required by the U.S. Federal Election Commission. See individual candidate pages on the FEC website or the FEC's race summary page for more information. The FEC summary page may include candidates who haven't filed for the ballot in this race with the Montana secretary of state.
Candidate
Raised
Spent
Remaining
Matt Rosendale (R)
$1.6M
$727k
$1.1M
Gary Buchanan (I)
$86k
$35k
$51k
Penny Ronning (D)
$47k
$43k
$5k
Sam Rankin (L)
No FEC filings on record
$0
$0
$0
Mark Sweeney (D)
$96k
$27k
$69k
Skylar Williams (D)
$4k
$4k
$48
James Boyette (R)
thru 5/25/22
$2k
$6k
−$3k
Kyle Austin (R)
No FEC filings on record
$0
$0
$0
Roger Roots (L)
No FEC filings on record
$0
$0
$0
Samuel Thomas (L)
No FEC filings on record
$0
$0
$0
Charles Walking Child (R)
No FEC filings on record
$0
$0
$0

On the issues

The material shown below was solicted from candidates via a written questionnaire in May 2022. Responses were limited to 1,000 characters and edited lightly for punctuation and spelling. Responses have not been exhaustively fact-checked. Send questions to Eric Dietrich at edietrich@montanafreepress.org.
Q1: Polls indicate many Americans are concerned about the integrity of the nation’s democratic institutions. Both as a political candidate and as a potential member of Congress, what can you do to promote Montanans’ faith in American democracy?
Mark Sweeney:

When elected, I will show up and work in a dignified, bipartisan manner. Senator Tester will accomplish even more great things for Montanans if there is a Tester/Sweeney team working in Congress for all of us.

The Constitution is a beautiful document and, while it is frequently referred to, it is too often ignored. Article II, Section 1 prescribes the process for certifying the presidential election and it is quite clear as to how this is to be done. Still, nearly 18 months after the 2020 election, the former president and others in Congress believe the Constitution wasn’t followed? Not so. I promise you I understand and will adhere to both our Montana and U.S. Constitution. I believe this will facilitate restoration of Montanans’ faith in American democracy. In Congress, I promise no goofiness, no grandstanding on cable news, no tweeting for attention, and no attempts to turn our friends and neighbors against each other.

Q2: Do you believe Joe Biden was legitimately elected president in 2020?
Mark Sweeney:

Yes.

Q3: The cost of health care is a concern for many Montana families. What federal action would you support to improve the U.S. health care system?
Mark Sweeney:

Spending in our country on health care is 19.6% of GDP. Government, if you include Medicare, Medicaid, VA, the Federal Employee Plan (FEP) and state sponsored employee health plans, approaches 50% of all health care purchases. The Affordable Care Act (ACA-Obamacare) has provided, roughly, 100,000 Montanans with new coverage and many millions of U.S. citizens across the country now have health insurance.

As your U.S. HD2 congressional representative, I commit to improving the ACA as well as focusing on both health care costs and premiums.

I will vote to reduce the costs of prescription drugs, including insulin, and for legislation that requires Medicare to negotiate the lowest possible price with drug manufacturers.

Our military veterans and their families need better access to health care. I applaud Senator Tester’s commitment to veterans and I will be a good partner in Congress to help him continue this important work.

Q4: Housing costs are an increasing concern for many Montanans. What federal action would you support to promote housing affordability in Montana?
Mark Sweeney:

I’ve worked in real estate for many years and understand the importance of people having access to affordable housing. I will work to leverage and expand the use of federal programs that are available today. Programs that include low income housing tax credits, tenant-based rental assistance programs, public housing operating fund and capital fund, Choice Neighborhoods, HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME), Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), National Housing Trust Fund, Capital Magnet Fund, the Rural Housing Service programs, and Qualified Opportunity Zone Designations.

Montanans should hold their locally elected officials, city and county managers, and economic development officials accountable for leveraging the opportunities that exist today to achieve more affordable housing for all. As a member of Congress, I’ll work with all 42 counties in the district and our tribal nations to be certain that the work is being done in Washington D.C.

Q5: To what extent do you see climate change as an urgent issue? What if any federal action would you support to mitigate its effects?
Mark Sweeney:

I worked in fisheries for 30 years in Montana. As an avid hunter throughout my life, I’ve seen firsthand the impact of drought, changes in wildlife behavior, and other dramatic impacts of climate change.

Collectively, we need to follow verified science and determine the best course of action. Energy production in Montana is starting to include significant sources of renewable energy from wind, solar, and hydroelectric sources. This development ensures that Montana will continue to be a leader in energy production and exportation well into the future as reliance on fossil fuels wanes.

I will promote federal policies and resources to retrain workers through our community colleges, for the energy economy to come. Our farmers and ranchers need investments in water resource projects which Matt Rosendale consistently votes against. Climate change is enemy number one to Montana’s water resources.

Q6: Do you see reining in the federal debt as a priority? If so, how should that be accomplished? If you support new taxes or spending cuts, please identify specifics about who would pay more or what budget areas you’d cut. (We assume that working to minimize waste, fraud and abuse is a given.)
Mark Sweeney:

Yes. Reining in our federal debt is a priority. A big part of that is reducing the influence and power of lobbyists in Washington D.C.

American millionaires and billionaires are not paying their fair share. The skyrocketing national debt and the lopsided tax obligations combined with inflation are pushing families, farmers, ranchers and businesses dangerously close to the financial cliff. We must bring the tax burden in this country into balance starting with reducing the loopholes.

Also, corporations that need our nation’s infrastructure to survive must start paying their fair share to maintain airports, roads, bridges, and to expand broadband. It makes sense that these companies pay a much greater share of the cost of building and maintaining our country’s infrastructure.

Reining in government spending should never come at the expense of our military, veterans, or their families. Nor should it be taken from public education, Medicare, or Social Security.

Q7: What do you see as the most important priorities for the management of federal lands in Montana? Should the federal government consider transferring some federally held land into state ownership?
Mark Sweeney:

We need to protect and guarantee access to public lands for Montana hunters, anglers, and recreationists. This means not letting out-of-state millionaires buy up land and block access to public lands.

When elected, I will work with federal land managers to ensure that access to public lands is protected and expanded where possible and practical. Also, I will require every payment in lieu of tax (PILT) dollar owed to the state of Montana is paid on time and expanded where appropriate.

The Taylor Grazing Act has provided grazing on public lands for Montana livestock producers for the past 80-plus years and has worked very well for Montana’s agriculture industry by providing for improved range land conditions and conservation. Transferring federal lands to states, especially Montana that has so many millions of acres of federal land within, puts a huge financial burden on the states and is not financially feasible.

Q8: What do you see as the single most significant issue facing Montana’s public education system, and what if any federal action would you support to address it?
Mark Sweeney:

It is important to realize all of our public schools, especially in rural Montana, are the heart of our communities. It is vital for our teachers and administrators to know that we support them and the value of their work. Public education is the great equalizer. We need to make sure that all Montana students have access to a free and appropriate education and that any legislation pushing for private school vouchers is stopped. Private schools can pick and choose their students. Public schools educate every Montana student. Teachers, administrators, and school boards need to know that they are supported and valued.

Low teacher pay is the single most important issue facing Montana public education. Montana teachers’ pay consistently ranks among the lowest in the nation, making it very difficult to attract and retain qualified teachers. We must prioritize and empower teachers by ensuring education is as financially rewarding as it is professionally and personally satisfying.

Q9: In the event Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, would you support federal legislation that either guarantees abortion access or that, alternatively, establishes legal protections for life beginning at conception? What specific provisions would you like to see included in future federal abortion law?
Mark Sweeney:

In my 63 years living in Montana, I have yet to meet one person who isn’t pro-life. A woman’s autonomy over her own body is hers alone. I believe the privacy laws in Montana’s Constitution, which protect an individual’s right to make their own medical decisions.

While there are some politicians in the Big Sky State who view our Constitution as a “socialist rag,” this thinking is limited to the far-right fringe. Forward-looking politicians view a woman’s right to choose in the exact same way as former Republican First Ladies Betty Ford and Barbara Bush: it is simply a woman’s right to decide.

I have very strong feelings regarding the federally guaranteed right to abortion access. As I stated earlier, our Montana Constitution has wonderful language and, based on what SCOTUS is apparently preparing to do, reverse Roe v. Wade, Montana needs now more than ever a teammate for Senator Tester so we can enact legislation that will make abortion access the law of the land.

Q10: What changes, if any, would you like to see to current federal regulations regarding firearm ownership?
Mark Sweeney:

I support the Second Amendment. As an avid gun owner, I know that with gun ownership, comes personal responsibility. We need to reduce burdensome bureaucracy in the federal system and enforce the federal regulations regarding firearm ownership that already exist. We need the laws that have been passed and that are already on the books to be enforced; these laws are intended to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. Any discussion relating to firearm ownership and changing federal regulations should also include a discussion of our nation’s need to adequately fund mental health.

Q11: Montanans voted to legalize adult marijuana use in 2020. Do you support removing cannabis from the federal government’s Schedule 1 controlled substance list?
Mark Sweeney:

Yes. Recreational marijuana use is currently legal in 18 states; generally, states lead the way in prompting our federal government to make smart changes to archaic, out-of-touch federal laws/regulations. A significant majority of Montanans favor legalization of recreational marijuana use. When I am the representative for HD2, I will work with Senator Tester and with like-minded Republicans and Democrats to create new federal regulations that better reflect Montanans’ views as they relate to the draconian and punitive characterization of cannabis use as a Schedule I controlled substance violation — that characterization is simply ridiculous.

Election results

June 7 Democratic primary vote
58%
21,887
23%
8,550
Unofficial count as of 2:33 PM, 6/13/22

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