Meet the candidates running for the open seat in Montana's 2nd Congressional District - TAI News
Skip to content
Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT), at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 27, 2024. (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Montanans in the 2nd Congressional District will select a new representative this November, as  incumbent Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale is not seeking another term. While the candidates that have filed to run in the election appear to differ starkly on reproductive rights, few of the Republicans even mention the issue of abortion on their campaign websites. None of the candidates indicate a specific position on whether to extend federal tax cuts for those making over $400,000 annually. 

The district, which includes the central and eastern parts of Montana, has a 16-point pro-Republican lean, according to the Cook Political Report.’s tracker in March listed nine Republicans and four Democrats who had filed their candidacies for the open seat, though one of those Republicans has since suspended his campaign.

The Montana Independent reached out to each of them asking about their positions on abortion rights and making the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanent; just two responded.

The Republicans

Elsie Arntzen, Montana’s elected state superintendent of public instruction, does not include abortion on her campaign website issues page. She told the Billings Gazette on April 1: “Life is Precious: It’s very simple, without the right to life, all other rights are irrelevant. I am unequivocally pro-life and will oppose any measure that is a threat to life.” During her tenures as a state lawmaker, she voted for a proposed constitutional amendment to make clear that there is “no right to abortion or its public funding.” Her website claims, without specifics, that she will both decrease taxes and balance the budget. She also signed a pledge to oppose any tax increases for any reason. 

Kyle Austin, a pharmacist and unsuccessful 2022 candidate, does not include abortion in the issues section of his campaign website. During his previous campaign, he told the Montana Free Press that he backs some regulation of abortion but not all. On April 8, he told the Missoulian: “To help unite America once and for all, I would support pro-choice national legislation only if it was very clear on when a women [sic] can or cannot have an abortion and very clear on how that abortion occurs. We need to create an offender registry for each abortion and create very clear consequences for people who are not responsible. The legislation also needs to clearly prohibit abortion as a form of birth control.”

Ken Bogner, the president pro tempore of the Montana Senate, says on his campaign website issue page that he wants to protect “The 2nd Amendment, the unborn, our communities, and elections.” He told the Billings Gazette on April 11: “I am pro-life. I do not support ‘codifying Roe’ or a national right to abortion and I will continue to support positions that protect life. I believe in Federalism and that the states should determine their own laws as much as possible and not the federal government.” In 2019, he voted for a proposed constitutional amendment to define a person starting from the moment of conception. He makes no mention of tax policy beyond promising a balanced budget constitutional amendment, but signed a pledge to oppose all tax increases. 

Troy Downing, Montana’s elected state auditor, has no issues page on his campaign site. In previous campaigns, he called himself “100% pro-life.” According to a May 2018 Montana Standard report, Downing defended his opposition to abortion and support for capital punishment during his unsuccessful bid that year for a U.S. Senate seat, saying: “In the death penalty we’re not talking about taking an innocent life. There’s a big difference between protecting the innocent as in an abortion and having justice for somebody who commits a heinous act on another.” During that campaign, Downing repeatedly attacked incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester for opposing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, tweeting, “As your Senator, I will be your voice for reducing your taxes!”

Ric Holden, a former state senator, makes no mention of abortion on his issues page. As a state lawmaker in 2001, he voted for some abortion restrictions, and he said in a 1998 candidate survey that abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. While offering no specifics on tax policy, his site notes that “taxes are high.”

Joel Krautter, a former state representative, makes no mention of abortion on his campaign website issues page. In 2019, he voted for a proposed constitutional amendment to grant legal personhood to starting at the moment of conception. During his 2020 campaign, he touted his anti-abortion voting record and 100% rating from the right-wing Montana Family Foundation in a Montana Free Press interview. His site makes no mention of tax policy.

Denny Rehberg, a former U.S. representative and lieutenant governor, makes no mention of abortion or tax policy on his campaign website issues page. In Congress, he consistently voted to restrict abortion and pushed a 2011 effort to cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood. Rehberg opposed a 2012 proposal to require that anyone making more than $1 million pay a minimum federal tax of 30%. 

Stacy Zinn, a former Drug Enforcement Administration official, makes no mention of abortion on her campaign website issues page, but does promise “tax relief for Montana families, ranchers, and employers” and a balanced budget.

The Democrats

Ming Cabrera, a former legislative candidate, includes a detailed abortion rights position on his campaign website issues page: “It is not the government’s role to pry into our private medical records or to make moral decisions about women’s healthcare. I firmly believe that women are perfectly capable of making these deeply personal decisions for themselves, and as a candidate for public office, I am committed to opposing legislation that would limit a woman’s right to choose and actively supporting measures that codify this fundamental right once and for all.” The site does not mention tax policy.

John Driscoll, a former Montana House speaker and former member of the Montana Public Service Commission, does not appear to have a campaign site yet. He said in an April 15 blog post that if elected he would back a national law to reinstate “Roe vs Wade standards as a national statute” and added, “We’ve no business imposing religious preferences on other Americans.” In an email, he said he opposes efforts to make the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanent: “Making it permanent will cost our national budget far more than we can afford and the outlay will go more to households, those in the top 20 percent of the distribution of incomes, less needful of an increase in after tax income.”

Kevin Hamm, a business owner and former Montana Public Service Commission candidate, does not address abortion or tax policy on his campaign website issues page. In an email, he told the Montana Independent: “Abortion is healthcare, and there’s no reason whatsoever to put a government agent between a person and their doctor. So no, no restrictions on abortion because I trust that the boards that license doctors make sure they are ethical and they can do their jobs just fine without interference from politicians trying to win points with fascists.” He said that while the federal tax code is “a mess on all levels,” he believes “individuals making over $400k per year should have to pay their fair share, and same for businesses.”

Steve Held, a business owner, does not have an issues page on his website.

Both parties’ primaries will be held on June 4.

Updated on 4-18-24:
After press time, the following was received by email from Republican candidate Ric Holden:

1. I have always been endorsed by the Right To Life organization throughout my State Senate terms.  The courts have said that the State Legislature should be the body to determine the laws concerning abortion law.  I agree with that and for now I would leave the Federal Congress out of the debate.  This is a State issue. 2. I do support making the 2017 Tax Cuts permanent.  I don’t support any further tax cuts for High income earners over the $400,000.00 at this time.

Related articles

Share this article:
Subscribe to our newsletter

The Montana Independent is a project of American Independent Media, a 501(c)(4) organization whose mission is to use journalism to educate the public, giving them the information they need about local and federal issues.