BILLINGS - For the second time in less than a week, eastern Montana congressional candidates met for a debate before the mid-term elections on Nov. 8.
Democrat Penny Ronning and Independent Gary Buchanan, both from Billings, were the only two candidates in the debate at MSU Billings Petro Hall on Tuesday night.
Incumbent Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., had a previous obligation and did not participate.
Lee Newspapers and Yellowstone Public Radio hosted the debate.
Dr. Paul Pope, MSUB associate professor of political science, said Libertarian Sam Rankin dropped out of the debate earlier in the day.
"The issues are complex, and none of the solutions are black and white," Pope read from a statement from Rankin. "When placed under the one-minute answer format, I don't believe I can properly address the question regardless of topic. My crystal clear position on issues are publicly available and I remain committed to supporting the candidate who will replace Matt Rosendale in Congress."
The first question addressed the possibility of a Republican majority in the House.
"Historically, the president's party has lost seats in the house during midterms," said Tom Lutey, a Billings Gazette reporter who was a member of the panel. "Republicans are projected to take back control of the House in November. If elected, how are you going to advance your agenda?"
"I will not caucus with either party," Buchanan said. "I'm not happy with the leadership of either caucus. But there's lots of caucuses in Congress that could impact Montana and I will work very hard to do that."
"There are values that represent the working class and investment in the working class and American productivity," Ronning said. "And so I believe that those are the things that most Americans are wanting us to do, whether it's in Montana or Connecticut or Nebraska."
Candidates then answered a question about inflation in the United States.
"Inflation is at 8.3% in the U.S.," said Nadya Faulx, panel member and Yellowstone Public Radio news director. "What do you think should be Congress's role in easing the financial burden and what policies would you push for?"
"There is no two ways around that we need to bring those jobs back to the United States," Ronning said. "But one of the things that we need to do right away to impact inflation is we need to actually start investing in the American workforce."
"The biggest problem right now is too much spending," Buchanan said. "I think the spending on both Republican and Democrat sides have to stop. We do not want to go into hyperinflation. It's painful right now. I happen to support the Federal Reserve chairman."
The two agreed on what they say may be among the biggest challenges on reservations.
"The economics, jobs are the number one problem that I'm hearing from the reservation themselves," Buchanan said.
"Economic development is critical for our tribal nations," Ronning said.