Election Guide '22

The candidates and issues on Montana's 2022 ballot

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Penny Ronning
2022 Democratic candidate for U.S. House District 2 (East)

Penny Ronning

Former Billings Councilwoman
Active candidates in race

Ronning, 59, served on the Billings City Council from 2018 to 2021. She says she has worked as a business owner, photographer and filmmaker, and co-founded the Yellowstone County Area Human Trafficking Task Force. According to her LinkedIn resume, she helped found the Hatchfest Audio Visual Arts Festival in Bozeman and served as president of the Livingston Downtown Association.

She said at a May 8 candidate forum that she decided to run for the U.S. House after attending a portion of former president Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial in 2020 and being disappointed that some U.S. senators, who served as jurors in the trial, weren’t present for the proceedings.

This biography is based on material provided by Ronning and information on her website and social media accounts, verified where possible against public records and archival newspaper accounts.

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?
Penny Ronning:

I am a proven leader who will work with people doing the right thing for Montanans. That’s why I worked with Senator Daines to bring home Montanans stranded in eastern Europe at the onset of the pandemic, sat with Senator Tester on a panel for issues impacting our tribal nations, and have worked with the Gianforte Foundation on the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. It’s why I am working with Senators Graham and Blumenthal on federal policy addressing crimes against children. We need to talk to each other as neighbors and fellow Montanans. Civility has been lost in the highest levels of government, and the people’s trust has been compromised. Our politics are busted, but we’re not broken. I’m not blind to the problems, but I see the possibilities that lie within us and extend beyond us and I am committed to working for all Montanans. Together, we can put people over politics. When willingness is there, it really is that simple.

Q2: Do you believe Joe Biden was legitimately elected president in 2020?
Penny Ronning:

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?
Penny Ronning:

Health care is a fundamental right, especially for veterans, and needs to be addressed as such. Not only are costs an issue, but so is access for too many Montanans. Updating and improving Medicare reimbursement is a step in the right direction as may be adjusting the age of qualification for Medicare. The high cost of prescription drug prices must be dealt with also, especially lifesaving drugs like insulin. Additionally, in rural Montana, doctors are few and far between. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, 46 of Montana’s 56 counties are underserved by primary care doctors, and almost a third of Montana’s primary care doctors will retire by 2030, according to the Robert Graham Center. Medical programs to train doctors in western states help, but more needs to be done. That’s why I support S.1893, the Rural Physician Workforce Production Act of 2021. These are short answers to a complex question.

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

In the past year, median household incomes in Montana rose only 4.7 percent, but rentals rose 15 percent, and homes a whopping 29 percent. There are 10,000 fewer homes in Montana than we need, according to Freddie Mac. This gap between wages, housing costs, and housing availability needs to be addressed. Infill development in urban areas helps lower infrastructure costs, preservation of rural housing helps avoid displacement in rural areas, and low income and workforce housing tax credits help incentivize affordable housing development. These are a few areas that can be addressed immediately to begin promoting housing affordability 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?
Penny Ronning:

Climate change is an urgent issue. In Montana and throughout the country, farmers and ranchers have been at the forefront of responsible land stewardship and will continue in that role as we understand more about how to address climate change. I support more funding for public research and development for crops and cropping systems; for methods to maintain healthy soil conditions, develop crops, varieties, and animal breeds that perform in more extreme conditions; and to examine options to combat drought. I also support the United States becoming energy independent. Montana can help lead the way through the many opportunities we have for wind and solar power development, biofuels, clean coal technologies, and responsible oil and gas production.

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.)
Penny Ronning:

Policymakers need to consider policy changes both to revenue and to spending while making certain that essential services are not cut. High national debt places a burden on folks having to scramble to pay for food, utilities, transportation, health care, childcare, and more. This is why I endorse an increase of the tax rate for the very wealthy, while keeping taxes at their current rate for families earning under $400,000. President Biden’s American Families Plan will raise $1.5 trillion over a decade by making the wealthiest 1% of Americans pay their fair share. The plan would also raise levies on capital gains and ordinary income and increase tax audits for those earning more than $400,000 a year. Long-term changes in spending and revenue require legislation, but executive actions can contribute to a sustainable fiscal future. For example, taxes paid must match taxes owed, not the average $381 billion/year tax gap.

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?
Penny Ronning:

Some might say that transfer of federal lands to the states would keep public lands accessible and generate revenue for the states. There are good reasons to be skeptical though, as a recent report by Headwaters Economics, a nonprofit located in Bozeman, reveals. Transfer of federal lands to the states might produce more revenue, but it wouldn’t necessarily reduce expenses, especially when it comes to wildfire suppression and environmental planning. No one disputes that public lands offer many benefits ranging from recreation to resource development. But when costs go up, states will be tempted to sell off what had once been land accessible to everyone. I’m not alone in feeling that federal land should remain federal land. In fact, a report authored by the former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke “does not recommend that a single acre of federal land be removed from the federal estate.”

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?
Penny Ronning:

In 1975, Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, later becoming known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. Throughout the history of the legislation, Congress has not yet fully funded this critical act. By Congress not fully funding the law, the burden falls on state and local taxes to make up the difference. I support the IDEA Full Funding Act (S. 3213/H.R. 5984) and the Keep Our Pact Act (S. 72/H.R. 764). These create a mandatory 10-year path to fully funding both IDEA and Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Investing in educator recruitment and retention, higher education, and meeting the mental health needs of students and educators are also critical investments in our country.

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?
Penny Ronning:

Males and females create pregnancy, but females have historically carried the legal, financial, and lifetime responsibility at a much higher rate. All life is precious, but not all lives are treated equally under the law when it comes to conception. Holding female reproductive rights to a stricter and more burdensome standard than that of males when it takes both sexes to create pregnancy is not right. Reproductive rights must be decisions between patients and their medical provider, not the government. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, then it becomes even more imperative that Congress not pass legislation to interfere with reproductive rights or private health care decisions between a patient and their doctor. This should be the standard no matter gender.

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

Currently, federal law prohibits domestic abusers from having guns, but only if they have been married to, have lived with, or have a child with the victim. Women are as likely to be killed by a dating partner as by a spouse and the law should reflect that. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) should be updated to include abusive dating partners as unauthorized to own a firearm.

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?
Penny Ronning:

Yes.

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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