Friday, May 24, 2024

Candidate Profiles: Senate District 46

Editor | May 9, 2024 12:00 AM

Lake County voters face only two contests at the local level in June’s primary. On the Democratic side of the ballot, voters from Ronan south will choose between Jacinda Morigeau and C.B. Pearson, who are each vying to represent Senate District 46. The winner will face Republican candidate Charles Headley in the general election.

On the Republican side of the ballot, challengers Wes Baertsch, Josh Senecal and Max Krantz are seeking to unseat incumbent Lake County Commissioner Gale Decker, who is running for reelection in Commission District 3. There are no Democrats in that contest.

The Leader is profiling the two legislative candidates this week, and the four commission candidates in next week’s paper.

Absentee ballots for the primary will be mailed Friday, May 10; the polls are open June 4 for in-person voting.

Senate District 46 race

The boundaries of Senate District 46 were redrawn in the most recent redistricting cycle. The district now runs from Ronan to Dixon and south to Arlee, and includes portions of the Rattlesnake area of Missoula and East Missoula before heading east to Clearwater and north to Condon. It encompasses House Districts 91 and 92.

Democratic candidates Jacinda Morigeau and C.B. Pearson face off in the primary.

Morigeau was born and raised in Arlee and is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. As the oldest child of Malissa and the late Dane Morigeau, and granddaughter of Frances 'Plesewe' Vanderburg, “I am deeply connected to the fabric of our state,” she writes. A graduate of the University of Montana, Morigeau is communications manager of United Way of Missoula County. She’s vice chair of the board of directors at the All Nations Health Center in Missoula and a member of the Montana Women Vote advisory board.

“This blend of personal, professional and community experience makes me optimistic, forward-thinking, and ready to fight for our shared democratic values,” she writes. “Montana is ready for a new generation of leaders who can represent the people of our state with truth, optimism and decency.”

Pearson has lived in the Rattlesnake area, adjacent to Missoula, for 35 years. He comes from a rural background, was the first person in his family to go to college and earned his master’s and undergraduate degrees in Environmental Studies from UM.

He’s worked as the executive director for nonprofit advocacy organizations including MontPIRG, Common Cause and the Clark Fork Coalition. He served as the vice-president and Montana office director for M+R Strategic Services from 1999 until 2022, managing a staff of up to 10 people. He now has a solo consulting business and works on tobacco-disease prevention strategies and with the transit system in Bozeman.

Pearson sits on the public policy council for the Montana Nonprofit Association and on the board of the MontPIRG Leadership Fund. He also belongs to several progressive and conservation-oriented organizations.

The candidates emailed answers to the following questions (edited for brevity):

Why are you the best candidate to represent your district and party in the general election? 

If elected, Pearson says his priorities include protecting the environment, addressing climate change and high property taxes, solving the affordable housing crisis, funding public education, increasing educational opportunities, defending personal choice and the Montana Constitution, and helping the state’s aging population.

He believes his experience as a paid and volunteer lobbyist give him in-depth understanding of the legislative process. “From the day I am elected I can work for the district and work to build alliances with key allies no matter the party,” he writes.

He also cites endorsements from the three Missoula county commissioners and two retired state senators and senate presidents, Republican Bob Brown and Democrat Mike Cooney. He’s also been endorsed by the Montana Conservation Voters and 314 Action – a national organization that supports Democrats for office with a science background.

Morigeau emphasizes her personal background, professional experience “and a deep commitment to our community's well-being.” She also cites her tribal heritage and CSKT membership as providing “an intersectional perspective often underrepresented in our political landscape.”

Her upbringing and cultural heritage “have instilled in me a profound understanding of our district's issues, particularly regarding healthcare, education and protecting our natural resources.”

She writes that her professional experience has helped her hone skills in collaboration, advocacy and problem-solving, “which are essential for effective representation in the legislature.” Her education at UM, she says, “has equipped me with the critical thinking and analytical abilities necessary to navigate complex policy issues and enact meaningful change.”

“Finally, this district has the highest population of Native people without Native representation,” she says. “I aim to change this lack of representation.”

If elected, what committees would you hope to serve on and why? 

Morigeau’s picks are Education and State-Tribal Relations committees. If appointed to the Education Committee, she says she would focus on recruiting and retaining educators, funding public schools, including art and music programs, and ensuring that Indian Education For All is fully implemented and supported.

“As a strong advocate for education, I believe these efforts are crucial for the success of our students,” she writes.

As a member of the State-Tribal Relations committee, Morigeau says she would prioritize “collaboration and consultation with tribal nations.” That includes advocating respect for tribal sovereignty, supporting the Indian Child Welfare Act, and addressing issues such as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives.

“Native voices are essential on all matters that impact tribal peoples, and I am committed to being a voice for collaboration and understanding,” she writes.

Pearson hopes to serve on State Administration, Natural Resources and Energy and Telecommunications.

As a member of State Administration he would work to preserve voting rights and the initiative and referendum process, and ensure government “works for the people of Montana not for the just the wealthy, and the corporations.”

His background in environmental studies makes him a good fit for Natural Resources, where he would focus on addressing climate change, resource extraction, clean water and air, and land-use issues.

An appointment to Energy and Telecommunications would also complement his interest in curbing the causes of global warming by improving the percentage of non-carbon energy sources and promoting strategies “to reduce our impact on the planet.” At the same time, he believes telecommunications “is part of the solution to how we grow and make smart choices.”

 What are the three top issues confronting the 2025 Legislature and why? 

At the top of Pearson’s list are Medicaid reauthorization, which expires in 2025 without legislative action, tax policy and housing.

He believes reauthorizing Medicaid expansion “is critical for our seniors and our kids. It is also essential for our rural hospitals and local economies.”

Regarding tax policy, he points out that Montana is one of just 10 states that taxes Social Security. “Let’s eliminate that for those families who have incomes of less than $200,000 per year.” He also recommends realigning tax policy so “the wealthy and the corporations pay their fair share.”

Finally, he says “the housing situation is out of control.” He suggests seniors would benefit from targeted efforts “to keep them in their homes,” while others need “a path to home ownership that protects our natural resources and includes smart growth strategies.”

Morigeau also prioritizes reauthorization of Medicaid expansion. “With over 135,000 individuals, including nearly 36,000 children, losing Medicaid coverage in the past year, the consequences are staggering,” she writes. “It's not just about healthcare access; it's about ensuring the stability and vitality of our entire community.”

She also champions protecting individual freedoms, from reproductive freedom and the right to make decisions about pregnancy to equitable access to the ballot box and safeguarding the rights of LGBTQ individuals.

Finally, she says the Legislature needs to address housing affordability and tax reform. “Integrating efforts to make housing more attainable for all while shifting the tax burden and diversifying our tax base is vital for our communities' economic stability and growth,” she writes. By addressing both issues “we can create a more equitable and prosperous future for all residents of our state.”

    Jacinda Morigeau is a Democratic candidate for Senate District 46.
    C.B. Pearson is a Democratic candidate for Senate District 46.