Get to know Senate District 25 candidates - | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

Get to know Senate District 25 candidates

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Absentee ballots were mailed Friday. You should be getting them in your mailboxes early next week. That said, there is a political oddity occurring in Montana. In fact, it's a political rarity going on right here in Billings. Two women, who have never run for political office, are seeking the seat in Senate District 25 here in Billings.

Jen Gross is a Democrat. Donna Huston is a Republican. We figured, since few people have ever heard of these candidates, we would introduce you to them. We begin by asking the candidates to tell us about themselves.

Jen Gross (D): "I was born and raised in Billings. I graduated from Senior High and MSU Billings and I've lived here in Billings almost my whole life and really care about our community. My family grew up, we were working poor and my parents struggled to make ends meet and my parents had a lot of pride though we didn't talk about that a lot, but we struggled to make ends meet and I see that in my neighborhood. I live in my district in the southside triangle and I see people struggling all around me and I really relate to that and I don't think people should have to struggle so hard just to make ends meet and so that's why I decided to run. I think I can be a strong voice, representative for the people of south central Billings."?

Donna Huston (R): "I am a Montana girl through and through. Fifth generation Montanan. I was born right here in Billings. I was raised on a farm/ranch operation in northern Montana, the Conrad Shelby area. So, summers were 4H and running lunches out to harvest crews, which gave me an appreciation for the hard work that our ag community does day in and day out here in our state. When we could catch a break we'd take the whole family and head up to places like the Bob Marshall Wilderness and enjoy all the treasures of Montana, hunting, fishing general land access. So, I value that deeply, even from my childhood. I am a wife. I was a navy wife for four years. That kind of gave me a great perspective of our country and how great Montana is compared to other states, and Montana is what I wanted to return to and raise my family because of the great people and the great treasures that we have to offer to raise kids in. When I came back to Montana, four kids, three are in school and one of them is enlisted in the U.S. Navy, so she is carrying on a multi-generational tradition of serving in the military for our country. And I certainly appreciate that. I miss her but she's doing that work for us.So, wife, mother, and for the last nine years I've been the CEO of the Center for Children and Families in Billings."

We asked the candidates about their professional backgrounds.

Jen Gross (D): "I'm very proud of the work I've done at Planned Parenthood over the last four and a half years. We are the most trusted women's health care organization in the state. We see just over 10,000 patients every year. We see women, men, teens We're about making sure families have the resources they need to be successful and the birth control that we provide is important, preventive cancer screening for breast and cervical cancer education,birth control for low income women. The majority of our patients we see are low income and we provide our services on a sliding scale we do not turn anyone away based on their inability to pay and anyone who walks in the door at Planned Parenthood will have access to the services they need."

Donna Huston (R): "The last nine years I've been the CEO of the Center for Children and Families in Billings. Myself and some great community members got together and put together a vision for our agency that would strengthen the children and families to reach their full potential. It is through my work at the agency that prompted me to want to engage politics. In my work for the last seven years I've been traveling to Helena as a member of various task forces and I believe my interaction there has given me the kids of skill I think are needed to represent our community in Helena. So, I really came to find interest in this process through the Center for Children and Families."

Lastly, we asked the candidates what issues they see as being most important.

Jen Gross (D): "The more I get into this the more I realize my decision to jump in the race at this moment is all about where I come from. You know. My roots are here in Billings, in Yellowstone County and my family struggled to make ends meet and so making sure that all families in Montanan have the resources they need to be successful, so folks are not collecting cans for extra money because their disability payments are not enough to cover their expense. It's a story I heard in my neighborhood this weekend. We have a lot of amazing small businesses in Billings and more and more are popping up. Members of my family are small business owners and we need to make sure that its as easy as possible for folks to start up their own small businesses and entrepreneurship, something that really helps grow our local economy and so I want to make sure it's as easy as possible for folks who want to take that leap and start their own businesses so that they can stay afloat, but more importantly than that, be profitable so they can give back to our local economy as well. "

Donna Huston (R): "I think it's interesting, as I'm talking to voters in the senate district they are aware they vote for their senator or their representative ends up being a representative for the entire state and the topics that I'm hearing most, which really are concurring with what I'm hearing most are from my friends in Helena we're facing some tough economic issues in Montanan. Our budget and our revenues are really tight and we have some tough decisions to make and some really serious work to do on that issue. I think, additionally, we're looking at things that stem around affordable energy development, good paying jobs. We're one of the lowest wage states in the country. We've got to fix that for our Montanans so they can feed their kids and take care of their families. We also need be looking at public access and really maintaining the way of life that Montanans have come to love. Public access, hunting, fishing, farming, ranching and all of the small businesses that are the hear of our state. To have an appreciation for them and to really respect their voice and issues in Helena is going to be the key to the success of our state going forward. "

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