Former Montana state senator and public service commissioner Ken Toole.

Ken Toole Endorses Andy Shirtliff for PSC

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The following is an endorsement post from Ken Toole former Montana Public Service Commissioner:

I’m endorsing Andy Shirtliff for the District 5 Public Service Commission Seat.  Andy has an opponent in the primary and I have talked with both of them about their positions on various issues, campaign strategies and understanding of the “bigger picture” facing the energy and telecommunications industries.  There is little question in my mind that Andy has a better grasp of the issues and a more progressive perspective of the job of the Public Service Commission.  He also has more political experience and stronger ties to the communities it takes to win… particularly Kalispell and Flathead County.

Andy Shirtliff understands that the energy industry is in the midst of transforming from one based on fossil fuels to one based on efficiency and renewable power.  More important he understands that regulated monopoly utilities like NorthWestern Energy and Montana Dakota Utilities are generally resisting this change and working to protect the old fossil fuel plants they own to the detriment of Montana consumers.

Andy Shirtliff is also a strong supporter of net neutrality.  He understands that allowing internet providers to slice and dice their services and charge different rates to different customers puts big providers in the position to pick winners and losers in “competitive” markets.  This is generally bad for the country but it is particularly bad for large rural states where access to the internet is increasingly important for everything from health care, to business, to education.

This PSC district encompasses Flathead, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Glacier, Teton and Pondera counties.  I was elected to this seat in a very close election in 2006 and I lost the 2010 “Anti-Obama blood bath” election.  Republicans have held the seat since then.  Former Secretary of State Brad Johnson currently holds the seat and he is the current chairman of the Public Service Commission.

PSC races are generally tough because they are so far off most people’s radar.  These days a reasonable budget of a PSC race is somewhere around $100,000.  Yet the campaign limits are the same as a legislative race, $180.  That means you either have to have a lot of your own money or you have to build a strong grassroots campaign and fund raising program.  I believe Andy is more capable of doing that.

The voter math is pretty simple- A candidate has to get good turn-out in the Democratic areas—Lewis and Clark and Glacier.  Critical to winning is getting as many Democrat and independent voters as possible in Lake and Flathead.  The five hundred pound gorilla in this race is Flathead County.

In my opinion Andy Shirtliff is better on important issues.  He also is a stronger candidate for this district.  He is well known and respected in Lewis and Clark County because of his work in the Governor’s office and community activity in various organizations.  He has lots of contacts across the state from his work in economic development.

Andy grew up in Kalispell.  In this race it will be critical to get as many votes as possible from Flathead County.  His strong ties and long history in Flathead County give him a real advantage, both in the primary but importantly in the general election as well.  Andy Shirtliff has my support in this race.

Ken Toole helped found the Montana Human Rights Network,  is a former Montana state senator and Public Service Commissioner. Ken is currently vice chair of Big Sky 55+ a strong new voice to engage Montanans 55 and older. It will advocate for progressive policies such as health care and economic security for all. Big Sky 55+ will focus on organizing all Montanans 55 and older in our urban, rural and reservation communities. It plans a multi-issue program that will advocate for a broad range of critical issues of concern to Montana seniors. 

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About the author

Max Croes

Max is the founder of Power Street Strategies a political and public communications consulting firm based in Helena. You can find his very biased opinions on the Houston Rockets at The Dream Shake and his thoughts on his cats (loves them) and the Star Wars prequels (loves them even more) on Twitter @CroesFire.

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