House Minority leader and Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor Casey Schreiner has devoted himself to public service because, as a husband, father, union member, and son of parents who instilled the value of hard work, he believes that government can serve the people. He hopes to continue the service he has offered the state after four terms in the Montana House by joining a team with Mike Cooney to continue the work Democrats have done over the past decade to ensure access to healthcare across Montana, improve education from pre-K to college, and continue to protect the right to reproductive health and freedom.
We opened our discussion about policy talking about Medicaid Expansion, which Schreiner said passed because Democrats in the Legislature were willing to find common ground with Republicans on issues that matter to all of us:
When I first became the minority leader, I gave an interview and I said I am confident we’re going to get over 60 votes to keep Medicaid expansion around. And we ended up with 62 because we had done the legwork. It wasn’t about politics. It was about relationships and the evening spent over beers or over dinner trying to hammer out solutions with folks who have a very different belief system than myself and some other Democratic legislators. In the end, you can find common ground when the greater good is what you’re working towards.
That’s a passion issue for me because I think what after our last son was born, my wife Teresa had a hemorrhage. And so I’m lucky enough to live 10 minutes from Benefis Health Care here in Great Falls. And had I’d been 10 minutes later, I would be a single dad right now. And I think about that when I’ve been able to go out and tour these critical access hospitals because at the end of the day, there are babies being born all over the state that aren’t 10 minutes away. And there are women that are having to go through these issues all over the state that aren’t 10 minutes away from their local health care provider. We have to keep those hospitals in place.
Cooney and Schreiner have faced criticism from their primary opponents over budget cuts that occurred in the 2017 special session of the Legislature. When I asked about that line of attack, he noted that Democrats fought throughout the special session to find more revenue and noted the absence of those criticizing Democrats in the Legislature now:
But to place it at the feet of Democrats who spent well, I think…it’s just it’s disappointing because I can tell you in my eight years, some of the folks that I know are criticizing us, I’ve never seen them testify in one legislative meeting. I’ve never met them until the campaign. And for some folks that want to be major advocates. You know, it’s where people see the true metal of a person isn’t when it’s advantageous to them in a campaign. It’s how they act when they’re not the ones on the line.
And I don’t think we get to cherry-pick the facts about who’s at fault. You know, at the end of the day, there were 10 to 15 different hearing opportunities for people to come in with different ideas of how to increase revenue. That special session and we ran up against a Republican brick wall and to have Democrats criticize the efforts of other Democrats who left their families to go there and fight like hell for a lot of issues that are important all Montanans. It’s just it’s not the way Democrats in Montana function, and it’s disappointing that it’s gotten that far.
When I asked Schreiner why he felt he and Mike Cooney were the best bet to defeat Greg Gianforte in November, he cited their knowledge of the lives of the people of Montana and that those people have seen the work Cooney and Schreiner have put in for Montana:
One of the great things about Montana and Montana politics, but really Montana, in general, is that this is a state where experience matters and accomplishments for the people of Montana still matter. And we’re lucky enough to be two public servants who are the only ones in this race who can actually speak to that. Mike and I both have dedicated our lives to serving the people of Montana. I tell people all the time, Teresa and I probably had opportunities to leave the state after college to go make more money someplace else. But Montana is our home. And by home, I mean, we stayed here. We decided to be in Montana. Montana respects that, because they’ve seen the work we’ve done over the years. We’ve always shown up. We testify in committees, in the Legislature. We are public servants in our communities. We serve on boards. That’s what Montanans respect is folks who are there for their community, even at times that it’s not politically advantageous.
For more, including discussions about education, reproductive rights, the role of the lieutenant governor, and more, be sure to listen to the entire interview here or wherever you get podcasts.