Democratic candidate for Montana’s eastern congressional district and former Billings City Councilmember Penny Ronning landed some criticism on her opponents during a debate Oct. 1 in Great Falls.
After Independent candidate and Billings businessman Gary Buchanan said he opposed the Biden Administration’s student loan forgiveness program, Ronning scoffed at the way Buchanan highlighted his work to save banks by restructuring student loan debt in the 1980s.
“How about we actually work to allow people, especially young people, to develop equity,” Ronning said. “To come out from underneath the burden because they went and got an education. Save banks. How about we work to save people.”
Ronning was a former CASA advocate and co-founded the Yellowstone County Area Human Trafficking Task Force. Ronning’s work on combating human trafficking on the federal and state level is one area of expertise she points to as to why she could be effective in congress, she said.
When asked during the debate about the issue of missing and murdered, Ronning talked about the EARN IT Act, a piece of federal legislation to establish a National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention.
“One of the most dangerous places for children to be right now is on the internet when they’re unsupervised,” Ronning said. “Attacking the ways that predators reach out to children needs to be a priority in our government right now.”
Ronning supported Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, she said. During the debate, Ronning also gave her support to the legalization of marijuana on the federal level, beefing up the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ability to complete anti-trust investigations and giving Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices.
When Republican candidate and U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale said he also supported giving Medicare negotiation powers, Ronning said she wanted to remind him he’d voted against caps and price reduction bills for insulin. Rosendale rebutted this statement and said price fixing doesn’t work and to fix the issues with prescription drugs prices congress must work to expose the contracts of pharmacy benefit managers. Pharmacy benefit managers take billions of dollars for their work without providing any real services, Rosendale said.
In her closing statement, Ronning talked about her own connections to Montana. She grew up in Billings, she said, where her father ran the Happy Diner and her mother was a federal employee. Montana values raised her and people should look to fellow Montanans in this election, Ronning said.
“My encouragement to Montanans is to stop electing millionaires,” Ronning said. “They don’t live like the rest of us live.”
Absentee ballots for the Nov. 8 election are expected to be mailed out beginning Friday. Ronning, Rosendale, Buchanan and Libertarian candidate Sam Rankin will be on the ballot for Montana’s 2nd Congressional District.