BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Former state Rep. Kathleen Williams launched a new campaign for Montana's only seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, just five months after her loss to incumbent Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte.
Williams told The Associated Press on Friday that she's running on the same issues, including health care, protecting Montana's outdoor heritage and rebuilding America's place in the world order.
The 58-year-old Democrat said dysfunction in Congress has gotten no better since her first bid for the House. She added that announcing her candidacy early could increase her chances following last year's defeat by about 5 percentage points.
"We are headed down the same road we built in 2018 to better serve Montanans," Williams said. "Health care — we have to fix it ... Protecting our outdoor heritage, that's been my career."
Williams is a former Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks employee who worked for a conservation group, the Western Landowners Alliance, before entering last year's House race.
First-term Democratic state Rep. Tom Winter of Missoula also has announced he's running for the House next year.
Gianforte hasn't announced whether he plans to seek re-election or try another run for governor in 2020. In 2016, Gianforte lost to incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, who is now in his second and final term.
The Republican's spokesman, Travis Hall, said for now Gianforte remains "focused on the job they elected him to do — represent them in Congress."
Williams served three terms in the Montana House and prevailed over five other candidates to become her party's candidate during the last election.
If elected she would be the first woman to hold the office since Jeannette Rankin in 1943. A Democrat has not held the seat since 1997, when former Rep. Pat Williams left office.
Montana Republican Party Chair Debra Lamm described Kathleen Williams as "too extreme for Montana" and accused the Democrat of supporting gun control and "Medicare for all."
"The people of Montana rejected this liberal agenda once, and I have no doubt they'll reject her again next November," Lamm said.
Williams told AP people 55 and older should be able to buy into Medicare. She described herself as a supporter of gun rights and the 2nd Amendment, but added that elected officials "should not be afraid to have a conversation" about the issue given the number of school shootings in recent years.
After losing last year, Williams said she interviewed for other jobs including director of the Montana Department of Commerce. She said the experience helped her focus on where she could make the most impact and reinforced her desire to serve at the federal level.
"When people put their faith in you and help you build a movement larger than yourself, when they look you in the eye and tell you they believe in you, you don't give up. You double down," Williams told a gathering of supporters during an afternoon rally to announce her candidacy outside the county courthouse in Billings.
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