Russell Fagg

Russell Fagg outlines his campaign to a group of eight people on Tuesday in front of the Gallatin County Courthouse in Bozeman.

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Recently retired Yellowstone County District Judge Russell Fagg on Tuesday said Democratic Sen. Jon Tester does not represent Montana values and it’s time to send him back to his farm.

Just days after announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination to run against Tester in 2018, Fagg was on the steps of the Gallatin County Courthouse in downtown Bozeman. He spoke to a group of eight people about his campaign while on his way to Helena. The Republican used a majority of his speech to bash Tester, saying he was a good politician but voted on party lines, and not for Montana values. He cited those values as being less government involvement, less taxes and less regulation.

The first jab Fagg took at Tester was on the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” He criticized the senator for being the deciding vote to pass the controversial health care legislation.

Fagg said that initial reports for the ACA said it would reduce jobs in America by 2.5 million between now and 2024. He said the causes for the loss of jobs were increased regulations and taxes that the taxpayers would later end up paying.

“If you break that down to Montana, Sen. Tester’s deciding vote for Obamacare has cost Montana about 20,000 jobs,” Fagg said.

That was just one example, he said. Fagg continued to bring up Tester’s voting record, citing his vote against President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and his vote in favor of the Iran Treaty, which, Trump has alleged, sent $150 billion to Iran to halt their nuclear program.

The Republican said he understood the need for taxes, which support good roads, parks, police protection and good schools. But, Fagg said Tester is all about more government, more taxes and more regulation, and doesn’t understand when taxation hinders production.

“If you were to sum up my philosophy, it would be this: We need to empower people, not government,” he said.

After his speech, Fagg shook the hands of those who stuck around for about five minutes. Under a shaded tree away from the courthouse steps, Fagg asked the Chronicle to gently phrase that not many people came out to his event.

“I would ask you just not to emphasize the crowd, because, to me, it’s the fact that I was here, giving people the opportunity to be here,” he said.

Chris Meagher, spokesman for the Montana Democrats, released a statement after Fagg announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination on Saturday. He alleged Fagg had been running a shadow campaign during his exploratory committee to decide whether to run for the Senate seat and accepted donations while still a sitting judge.

“Montana needs someone with solid judgment representing them in the Senate, and Russell Fagg is not that person,” Meagher said.

Fagg joins the Republican primary alongside Republican state Sen. Albert Olszewski, Big Sky businessman Troy Downing, State Auditor Matt Rosendale and Belgrade businessman Ron Murray. Tester is also being challenged in the Democratic primaries by blogger Greg Strandburg and Havre businesswoman Sarah Alexis Dean.

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Freddy Monares can be reached at 406-582-2630, or by email at fmonares@dailychronicle.com.

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