Last month, I sent out a questionnaire about domestic issues to each of the Democratic candidates running to unseat Representative Rehberg. While I did receive a full set of responses from the Gernant campaign, I did not get a response from Melinda Gopher or Dennis McDonald. Sam Rankin did call, and told me that he had made a pledge not to speak until after the primary.
I’d like to thank Tyler Gernant and his campaign for their responses, which are posted below.
1. As a teacher, one of my primary concerns is the federal role in public education. How would you change the federal role in public education, specifically No Child Left Behind? Do you support the new Race to the Top Initiative?
As the son of a high school math teacher, public education has played a central role in my life. Over the course of the last ten years, the federal government has played an increasingly dangerous role in our public education system. Starting with the No Child Left Behind Act, local control is being replaced with federal mandates. While the Race to the Top Initiative has some positive aspects in terms of rewarding innovation and achievement in schools, I fear that it is another "top down" approach to education, placing power over local education in the hands of the federal government. We need to re-address the federal government’s role in education. Our nation needs, and benefits, from having the best public education system in the world. Our national economy, our security and our future depends on it. However, local communities, school administrators, teachers and parents are the best judge of what works best in local schools. Too often now, our teachers must "teach to the test" so students and schools meet No Child Left Behind standardized test scores. This model prevents local schools and teachers from using their own innovations and creativity. We need to help our children develop a life-long interest in learning. What’s needed is federal support of education with local control. Our communities must be trusted — and can be trusted — to provide the best education for local children.
2. Recently, Representative Rehberg has announced that he will not seek earmarks for the next year. How do you feel about his decision and what role would you play as a member of Congress in terms of seeking funds for Montana?
Rehberg’s pledge is an empty political gesture that’s more about party politics than what is right for Montana. In fact, shortly before making this pledge, Congressman Rehberg discussed the federal budget deficit and earmarks, stating "earmarks are not the problem." This is just another example of Rehberg marching lock-step with his party at the expense of helping people in Montana. He recently did the same thing when he voted against the federal "Cash for Caulkers" program, which would help provide jobs to thousands of un- and under-employed construction workers. As Congressman, I would advocate for Montana. If a program makes sense and is beneficial to Montanans, I’ll support it. At the same time, I will work to eliminate wasteful spending and to reduce the deficit. We can do that without curtailing spending on legitimate measures that help our state.
3. Given recent news that Glacier Park has lost two more glaciers, the impact of global climate change is closer than ever to Montanans. Are you convinced that human activity is largely responsible for global climate change? Do you support national efforts to control emissions? What specifically would you support?
I believe scientific evidence clearly demonstrates that our actions contribute to global warming. It’s our responsibility to find solutions to this problem. A key part of solving the problem is to promote new, sustainable ways of producing energy. There is great potential in the new energy economy, both in helping our environment and in boosting our state’s economy and creating jobs. I’ve been on a New Energy Tour of Montana and have met with businesspeople throughout the state who are already making innovative and productive use of sustainable energy. We need to provide incentives for this type of innovation and make sustainable energy a key part of our nation’s energy policy.
4. During his tenure in Washington, Representative Rehberg has consistently supported the interests of large energy producers. How would you propose changing federal energy policy and are there any specific initiatives you currently support?
As mentioned in my previous answers, I strongly advocate incentivizing the research and use of clean, renewable and sustainable energy. We need to focus on the future and explore better ways of producing energy. Montana can be a leader in moving our country away from outdated, short-sighted ways of producing energy. In large part, this means focusing on clean, local energy production and distributive power.