HELENA — Former state Rep. Tom Winter on Wednesday became the fourth Democrat to enter the 2022 race for Montana’s new western congressional district, saying he will bring a “progressive, populist and people-focused” campaign to the contest.
Montanans are finding it increasingly difficult to afford basic needs, such as housing, education and health care, and government needs to work on the average person’s behalf, he told MTN News in an interview.
“At one point this was the Montana promise – if you work hard, you get a safe community, a roof over your head, food on the table, and education for your kid, and health care,” he said. “That promise has been broken. And I want to bring it back.”
Winter, 35, from Missoula, joins three Democratic women already in the race: state Rep. Laurie Bishop of Livingston, public-health advocate Cora Neumann of Bozeman and Missoula attorney Monica Tranel.
Two Republicans also are in the race: Former state Sen. Al Olszewski of Kalispell and former Montana congressman and former U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
Winter was a state representative at the 2019 Legislature and ran for Montana’s congressional seat in 2020. He lost in the Democratic primary to Kathleen Williams, who then lost the general election to Republican Matt Rosendale.
Winter grew up in the Kansas City area and moved to Missoula in his early 20s. He works now for World Cell, a company that helps arrange and install high-speed Internet service for unserved an underserved areas in Montana.
Winter said he didn’t want to enter the race until he had a better idea who he’d be representing, since the boundaries of Montana’s two new congressional districts have yet to be drawn.
A state commission meets on Thursday and may vote on the final proposed district boundaries and must complete its work by next week. Most of the western Montana counties are likely to be in one of the districts.
Winter noted that he won his state legislative seat in a district that went for former President Trump in the 2020 election, and said he can appeal to Democrats, Independents and Republicans with a progressive message that focuses on policies that benefit people.
“It’s so clear that Montana government specifically, but the federal government as well, has been taken over by corrupt special interests, billionaires, corporations,” he said.
It’s “unjust” that people cannot afford housing or health care or education, while working a full-time job, and the government needs to assist them with policies like a higher minimum wage or guaranteed paid family leave.
“Those things are the lowest of low-hanging fruit, and we are not getting them,” he said. “If that doesn’t show that something is broken, I don’t know what does.”