Lewis focuses on workforce


The race for Montana’s lone seat in the U.S. House has become a crowded one, with five Republican candidates, two Democrats and one Libertarian all vying for the position.

With the primary election just weeks away, candidates are canvassing the state in an effort to reach voters with their campaign platforms. One Democratic candidate, John Lewis, paid a visit to Miles City last week as part of a swing through Eastern Montana. During these visits, he’s met with different businesses involved with workforce development, an issue that’s become an integral part of his platform.

“Meeting with these businesses, you realize there is a huge need for high-skilled, high-tech workers,” Lewis said. “Equipment operators, welders, they can’t fill those jobs fast enough. A big cornerstone of my campaign is education and workforce development. The way I see it, the jobs are there. Good-paying jobs, the kind you can raise a family with. But you have to get that top-level training.”

Lewis, who served as state director on former U.S. Senator Max Baucus’ staff  from 2010-2013, said the reason he decided to run for Congress is simple. As a concerned father of two, he wants his children to have the kind of healthy, positive upbringing he had, in the state he calls home.

“When I look at Congress and its inability to make tough decisions and going from crisis to crisis, places like Montana - especially rural areas - are paying the biggest price,” he said. “I want to be someone who goes back there with a strong voice for Montana. I see a real rural-urban divide back there. It’s about priorities.”

Infrastructure is also a hot-button topic, as anyone living in eastern Montana can attest. 

As effects of the energy boom in the Bakken continue to migrate slowly to the west, Lewis said he realizes improvements must be made to accommodate that growth. If elected, he would work to serve on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“The current highway funding bill is expiring in September, and that bill is responsible for 13,000 jobs,” Lewis said. “In talking to folks across the state, I’ve found that people are sick and tired of partisan politics. They want to see Congress, especially our representatives from Montana, work with both sides. Work on things that help Montana; we have a strong tradition of that. If given the opportunity, that’s what I will do.”

Social Security and Medicare, the disappointing rollout of the Affordable Health Care Act, a balanced budget and federal tax reform are also high on Lewis’ list of priorities, as well as the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline project. The project has long been a source of contention for the Obama administration, and Lewis wants voters to know he supports the project.

“I support the Keystone XL pipeline project, but I want to see it done the right way,” he said. “There needs to be an emergency response plan in case of a spill; I think that’s common sense. I want to support American jobs in the best way possible, using the best American products so we can have the best pipeline we can have. I support it, but let’s make sure it’s done the right way.”

A native of Billings, Lewis graduated from Missoula Sentinel High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Western Washington University, and worked for Baucus for 12 years in a variety of positions, from legislative assistant to state director. He and his wife, Melissa, have a daughter, Kate, and a son, Jackson. They reside in Helena.