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BELGRADE — Vice President Mike Pence touted the work President Donald Trump has done over the last four years at a rally here on Monday and portrayed the November election as a battle between Republicans who are working to uphold Montana values and Democrats who back destructive liberal policies.

Pence spoke at the Big Yellow Barn on Springhill Road in support of Montana Republican candidates Sen. Steve Daines, Rep. Greg Gianforte and State Auditor Matt Rosendale.

Pence highlighted Trump’s investment in the military, his 2017 tax cuts, his work to confirm conservative judges and his trade deals with China, Mexico and Canada.

He said Trump has shown leadership during the coronavirus pandemic by suspending travel to China in January, bolstering production of medical gear and investing in treatment and vaccine research.

Going forward, Pence said that the Trump administration, Daines, Gianforte and Rosendale would stand by law enforcement, support pro-life policies, lower taxes and protect the freedoms of speech and religion.

“The choice in this election is whether America remains America,” Pence said.

Pence also mentioned Trump and Daines’ work on the Great American Outdoors Act, which provides $9.5 billion to address the maintenance backlog on public lands and provides $900 million annually for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Daines is facing a tight contest against Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock in a race that Democrats hope could help flip the Senate.

“The future of the United States, the future of this country runs right through Montana with this Senate race,” Daines said.

Daines called Bullock “too liberal for Montana” because he has received an F rating from the National Rifle Association, has supported sanctuary cities and expressed openness to a carbon tax while running for president last year.

Daines also vowed to stand with law enforcement, crediting the work of Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin for his office’s response to the Bridger Foothills fire.

Bullock plans to be in Bozeman on Tuesday to discuss veterans’ services and Medicaid expansion.

Gianforte, who is running for governor against Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, said he would reinvigorate the economy and act as a check on Democrats’ liberal policies.

“If you’re fed up with 16 years of one-party rule in the governor’s office then I’m asking you to roll up your sleeves and join us,“ Gianforte said.

On Monday, Cooney held an event with Raph Graybill, Democratic candidate for attorney general, to announce their plans to protect workers and unions.

Rosendale is running against Kathleen Williams, a former state legislator from Bozeman, who has branded herself as an independent candidate for Montana’s lone congressional seat.

Rosendale said Williams — whom he called “extreme Kathleen” — would join Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in supporting policies that undermine the Second Amendment, raise taxes, create a “Bernie-Sanders-style” health care system and threaten the energy industry.

“If elected, you have my word that I will always stand firm against the extremists that are threatening our freedoms and I will drain the swamp in Washington and get results for Montanans,” Rosendale said.

In a fundraising email sent during the event, Williams’ campaign said Rosendale was “trying to cozy up to donors” instead of addressing the pressing issue of affordable health care.

Republicans running for state offices in November spoke briefly at the rally, urging attendees to vote for GOP candidates because they will stand up for Montana values like supporting the police, protecting the Second Amendment and limiting the size of government.

Hundreds of people showed up to the rally. The energetic crowd was filled with “Make America Great Again” and “Keep America Great” hats. An American flag hung from a crane behind the Big Yellow Barn and farm equipment was parked nearby. Flags for Daines hung beside a stage that overlooked the Bridgers, which were obscured by smoke.

Attendees had to register online in advance of the rally and law enforcement officers checked tickets on Springhill Road to limit crowd size. Volunteers checked temperatures before allowing cars to park.

Chairs were set up in small groups, but the groups didn’t appear to be 6 feet away from each other. Most attendees did not wear masks.

Last week, Gallatin City-County Health Officer Matt Kelley said he hadn’t heard from event organizers to coordinate health precautions for the rally. He then sent an email to the organizers in which he said state and local regulations require that those attending gatherings of more than 50 people wear masks and practice social distancing.

Pence’s visit marked the Trump campaign’s first public event in Montana for the 2020 election.

In 2018, President Donald Trump visited Montana four times and his surrogates, including Pence and Donald Trump Jr., also made appearances to stump for Rosendale, who was making an unsuccessful attempt to unseat Democratic Sen. Jon Tester.

Pence had planned to headline a fundraiser in Bozeman hosted by Caryn and Michael Borland on Monday before the Belgrade rally. After the Associated Press reported the Borlands had shared social media posts related to QAnon, a conspiracy theory, Pence dropped out of the fundraiser.

Instead, he attended a rally in Wisconsin before the Belgrade event.

Daines, Gianforte and Rosendale had also planned to attend the Bozeman fundraiser. All three Republicans’ spokespeople told the Associated Press last week that the candidates didn’t know about QAnon, which alleges that Trump is fighting against Satan-worshipping pedophiles who are running a global sex-trafficking ring.

Cooney has capitalized on the fundraiser, sending multiple news releases in which he criticized Gianforte for not denouncing QAnon, which the FBI has labeled as a domestic terrorism threat.

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

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