Election Guide '22

The candidates and issues on Montana's 2022 ballot

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Monica Tranel
2022 Democratic candidate for U.S. House District 1 (West)

Monica Tranel

Missoula attorney

Tranel, 56, grew up in Miles City, Ashland, Broadview and Billings. She currently resides in Missoula. Tranel graduated from Gonzaga University and received her law degree from Rutgers University.

Tranel is a two-time Olympic rower, having competed in both the 1996 and 2000 summer games. She moved back to Montana and began working for the Public Service Commission as a staff attorney in 2001. Tranel has spent recent years working in private practice.

Tranel made an unsuccessful bid for a seat on the Public Service Commission in 2020. Her campaign issues include increasing regulations and taxes for corporations, supporting affordable housing and higher wages, and climate change resiliency.

This biography was compiled with information from Tranel’s campaign website and an interview with the candidate.

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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
Ryan Zinke (R)
thru 3/31/22
$2.5M
$1.3M
$1.2M
Cora Neumann (D)
thru 3/31/22
$1.2M
$388k
$878k
Al Olszewski (R)
thru 3/31/22
$678k
$313k
$365k
Monica Tranel (D)
$675k
$409k
$266k
Mary Todd (R)
$168k
$61k
$107k
Tom Winter (D)
thru 3/31/22
$95k
$79k
$16k
Mitch Heuer (R)
No FEC filings on record
$0
$0
$0
Matt Jette (R)
No FEC filings on record
$0
$0
$0
John Lamb (L)
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?
Monica Tranel:

Too often on the trail I hear people say they no longer know who to trust. We need to be clear on this matter that there are special interests who seek to undermine our institutions, and they do it for money and power. 2020 saw one the highest levels of voter participation in a presidential election. We should be celebrating this high turnout, regardless of the electoral result. However, 19 states have responded by enacting laws that will make it harder to vote. That’s why we need federal legislation to ensure that regardless of where a voter lives, they have safe, secure, and reliable access to voting.

We also need to engage in conversations with our neighbors, and need representatives who are willing to lead the way in doing that. In Montana, our state is small enough you can get to know your leaders. I’ll show up in your community — big or small — and talk to each other about the issues that matter to Montanans. We may not always agree but I will always be open to listen and learn.

Q2: Do you believe Joe Biden was legitimately elected president in 2020?
Monica Tranel:

Absolutely. The 2020 election should have been one to celebrate. The largest number of Americans in over 100 years cast a ballot in our presidential elections. The clear winner picked by the majority of voters and the majority of electoral votes was President Biden.

Rather than conceding a fair election, an administration obsessed with power called it “stolen.” Bizarrely, this claim was advanced in Montana. Not one elected Republican forsook office because of “fraud.” And there was none, as measured by Republicans across the country. The obsession with retaining power, at the expense of democracy itself, resulted in legislatures in 19 states, including Montana, trying to make it harder to vote. Fourteen states now let partisan bodies overturn future elections they do not like. Former generals warn of a potential coup in 2024.

This is why Congress needs to enact legislation to protect every person’s right to vote and the right to have the vote counted.

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?
Monica Tranel:

Congress must fund, support, and promote enrollment in the ACA. We must also expand Medicare. Anyone who is interested in enrolling in Medicare should have that option, and if you want to keep your private insurance you should have that option.

Congress must stand up to Big Pharma and stop price gouging on medication. Over 90% of Americans support allowing Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies but the only reason it hasn’t passed Congress is because of the money Big Pharma has spent lobbying to get their people elected. As Americans we pay the highest prices of any nation for pharmaceutical drugs, and that needs to change.

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

I went on a rural education tour in Seeley Lake, and I learned there were only four houses for sale, all over $700k. That doesn’t work for a teacher with a starting salary of $33,000. Affordable housing is one of the most important infrastructures needed to create a healthy, vibrant, and inclusive community. Congress must support efforts to increase the supply of housing with funding and incentives. Currently only one in four eligible projects in Montana are funded because of the limit in federal tax credits available.

We must also ensure families get a fair shot at owning and renting a home. We’ve all seen the proliferation of Airbnb, short-term rentals, and home purchases by companies in the past few years. Demand in Montana is rising because people are moving here, it should not be rising because investors view it as a way to make a profit. Congress should eliminate tax incentives investors get by buying up homes that could be purchased by families that live and work here in Montana.

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?
Monica Tranel:

Montanans know that climate change is happening — we see it in the intensity of our forest fires and the drought harming our crops.

Congress has an enormous role to play in the energy transition and right now it is missing a rural voice who understands climate and energy. Montana can lead the way in the energy transition.

In the infrastructure bill, Congress invested in the new energy economy: by funding construction of EV charging stations; by allocating funds to protect against drought and heat; and by funding upgrades to our electric grid.

Montana needs a voice in Congress to connect those dollars with projects that will reduce carbon emissions. Montana can continue to be the engine room of the country, and supply clean, renewable energy.

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.)
Monica Tranel:

This is a complicated question. Economists agree that governments need not operate like families and can function with some degree of deficit spending. The national debt also is a political football, with the party in power increasing it and only complaining about its size when the federal government is not supporting their political agenda.

The reality is we can have some debt but we must be responsible stewards for the future. With all functioning governments, this is an area that requires bipartisan solutions — not partisan attacks — so that everyone sacrifices a little to rein in the debt. This is an area where a bipartisan working group must unite and identify agreed-upon areas where taxes can be raised and which programs can be cut. Both must happen.

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?
Monica Tranel:

It’s important the federal government retains land so that it may be used by the public, rather than off-loaded to states with the eventual goal of privatizing it when the state can no longer afford to maintain it. We cannot let the checkerboard challenges of private and public lands continue to intensify.

Public lands cannot exclusively serve commercial and corporate interests. Conservation is about how we protect public and private land from misuse, how we protect the quality of water, how we preserve access to hunting and fishing places, and how we make sure Montana’s public lands remain open to all of us. Congress has a vital role in making those things happen.

I will support local conservation solutions that start from the ground up. The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act brought ranchers, loggers, recreationists, business owners, and conservationists together to chart a path forward for the Blackfoot River watershed.

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?
Monica Tranel:

Among 36 industrialized countries, the U.S. is the only one to not provide early education programs to all 4-year-olds. And we are last among 36 countries that provide child care for 3- to 5-year-olds. I support efforts to create high-quality early childhood programs.

The best reforms support local innovation and control, increase teacher pay, and reverse the defunding of public schools. The Leave No Child Behind Law discriminates against rural areas by employing criteria that deem rural schools to be failing when they are not. Schools then suffer by losing funding and not being able to attract and retain quality teachers. We must fund schools so that all of Montana’s children can succeed.

I support making college more affordable by increasing the availability of need-based scholarships and by charging students the same interest rate that the federal government charges banks, 0%. I also support free and affordable tuition to community colleges.

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?
Monica Tranel:

I am running for Congress to fight for policies that allow families to make their world a better place, in their own way, on their own terms. I fully support a woman’s decision to choose whether or when to have a child and will fight in Congress to protect that fundamental right.

We must also enact more policies that give families greater control over their lives and promote their health and well-being. Policies like making contraception easily available to reduce unwanted pregnancies.

We must also support families when they decide to have children. Child care is 35% of some families’ budgets. Congress can provide child tax credit, paid family leave, affordable child care, and more.

I pledge in Congress that the first bill I put forward will strengthen families and codify the right to an abortion. Politicians should not make personal decisions for people. I stand with families and trust them to make their own decisions, including when or whether to become a parent.

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

I grew up on a ranch. I know responsible gun ownership is a way of life in Montana. But as a mom to three daughters and the sister of a public school teacher, it breaks my heart to see another mass shooting in the news every time we turn around. The grief we feel must be met with action, rather than another round of condolences from leaders.

We don't have to choose between supporting the Second Amendment and having common-sense laws to reduce gun violence, like universal background checks. We have to make it harder for dangerous people to go out and buy a gun. Most Montanans agree with that.

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?
Monica Tranel:

Yes. We must bring federal policy more in line with Montana and a number of other states. However, addiction to drugs, even marijuana, is real and damages lives and communities. We must increase support for treatment programs and ensure that marijuana is not sold to teenagers and the edible market is regulated for safety.

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