HELENA — Helena Valley farmer-rancher Joe Dooling on Wednesday became the third Republican vying for Montana’s open U.S. House seat in 2020, saying he’d be a strong voice for agriculture and a committed congressman who wouldn’t abandon the seat once winning it.
“When I’m done being a congressman, I don’t want to be a senator, I don’t want to be the governor,” he said, noting that by 2021, Montana will be on its fourth congressman in the past eight years. “This just simply isn’t working for Montana. We can do better than this.”
Dooling, 44, joins two other Republican state officeholders already in the race to succeed Rep. Greg Gianforte, who is running for governor in 2020: state Auditor Matt Rosendale and Secretary of State Corey Stapleton.
Dooling has run twice for the state Legislature, losing a 2010 GOP primary in the House and a 2014 state Senate race. He also chairs the Lewis and Clark County Republican Central Committee and his wife, Julie, is a state representative. But he’s largely unknown to voters and acknowledged he’ll have an uphill climb to defeat Rosendale and Stapleton in the GOP primary.
“I’m definitely the underdog … (but) being an underdog is great, because you only have one place to go, is up,” he said. “All my life people have told me that I was an underdog. When I came to the Helena Valley, I was a hired hand, and now I have a farm. Everybody said, `You can’t buy a farm in today’s age, you can’t buy a farm in the Helena Valley.’”
Dooling raises malt barley, hay and cattle on his farm/ranch northeast of Helena, near Lake Helena.
Two Democrats are running for Montana’s sole U.S. House seat, including Kathleen Williams, the former state representative from Bozeman who lost to Gianforte by five percentage points in the 2018 election. State Rep. Tom Winter of Missoula is the other Democrat. Democrats haven’t won the seat since 1994.
Dooling said he hopes to capitalize on his connections with other county GOP chairs and throughout the Republican Party in the state.
When asked about issues Wednesday, Dooling outlined traditional Republican Party positions.
On health care, he called the Affordable Care Act a “disaster” and said he supports President Trump’s effort to force transparency in health-care pricing,
On trade, he said agriculture is paying a price in the trade wars instigated by President Trump, but that tariffs are part of a negotiation process that’s needed to achieve free, fair trade.
He said he supports a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and that Congress needs to change laws and fund border enforcement so the country can send migrants back to their home country more easily and not hold them in United States.
He also said he’s a strong supporter of natural-resource development, including coal, oil, gas and hard-rock minerals, and that Trump’s emphasis on domestic oil-and-gas development has given the United States more bargaining power in the Middle East.