Kathleen Williams

Kathleen Williams, the Democratic candidate for U.S. House, spoke to a small crowd at Miles Park in Livingston as the first stop on a statewide campaign tour.

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LIVINGSTON — The Democratic candidate for U.S. House launched a statewide tour from Miles Park on Thursday morning, pitching herself to the masked crowd of about 30 as a candidate who will be an independent voice in Congress.

Kathleen Williams is in a tight race against Republican state auditor Matt Rosendale. Recent polls show Williams leading by a few percentage points and political analysts are calling the race a toss-up.

In Livingston, Williams highlighted her decades working in natural resources planning and policy and her three terms in the state House representing Bozeman.

She said she collaborated with Democrats and Republicans throughout her career to improve the health care system, bolster the economy and protect public lands and the environment.

“I am absolutely committed to cutting through the partisanship,” she said. “I think it’s destroying our institutions and our country and our society.”

She questioned Rosendale’s record on public lands, health care and veterans services and said, “He is trying to reinvent himself.”

In an email, Rosendale’s spokesperson Shelby DeMars said, “Matt’s record of results speaks for itself. Anyone can look at what he has accomplished in office and it is abundantly clear that serving the people of Montana in his official capacity is his top priority.”

Rosendale spent several years in the Montana Legislature, including serving as Senate Majority Leader during the 2015 legislative session.

While serving as a state senator in 2014, he ran for Montana’s U.S. House seat and lost in the primary. Two years later, he was elected state auditor. Then in 2018, he ran for U.S. Senate against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and lost.

He has centered his campaign on his economic plan, which includes policies aimed at cutting regulation, making permanent the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and reducing government spending. He has also vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, lower health care costs, protect public lands and defend the Second Amendment.

Rosendale, who has also closely aligned himself with President Donald Trump, joined other Montana Republicans at a rally for Vice President Mike Pence in Belgrade last month.

“We need bold ideas and leaders who act decisively to get our economy back on track,” he told the cheering, largely unmasked crowd. “President Trump and Vice President Pence have delivered just that, and if elected as your next representative to the United States Congress, I stand ready to help them lead the great American comeback.”

Rosendale has repeatedly attacked Williams by calling her “Extreme Kathleen” and saying, if elected, she would align herself with liberal Democrats.

“There are incredible misrepresentations about my record,” Williams said at the campaign stop in Livingston. “I really hope Montanans can see that, and that’s one reason we’re doing this tour.”

Williams plans to spend six days traveling 2,000 miles across Montana and stopping in 24 towns after spending the last several months calling voters and holding virtual campaign events from her home in Bozeman.

Williams’ Solutions Tour will be similar to the campaign events she held across Montana in 2018 when she ran unsuccessfully for U.S. House against Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte.

Her tour is set to end Tuesday afternoon at Bogert Park in Bozeman.

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Perrin Stein can be reached at pstein@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2648.

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