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The Billings Gazette - Lindeen Plans Campaign Against Rehberg

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June 23, 2005

Lindeen Plans Campaign Against Rehberg

Of The Gazette Staff

Promising to wage an aggressive campaign and speak from her heart, state Rep. Monica Lindeen, D-Huntley, launched her run for the U.S. House in Billings Wednesday.

Lindeen wants the Democratic nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Dennis Rehberg, R-Mont., who is serving his third term in Congress.

"I'll talk about the issues and about his voting record, as they will talk about mine," Lindeen said. "That isn't negative campaigning." She used a Rehberg roll-call vote this past May to illustrate her point.

She estimated she will need about $1.5 million to be competitive for Montana's lone seat in the U.S. House. Lindeen is in her fourth term in the Montana House and is term limited in 2006. Her campaign begins 11 1/2 months before the June 6, 2006, primary election. She is the first Democrat to announce.

Billings stock-bond broker Gary Buchanan introduced Lindeen as a "very successful businesswoman who, with family members, started the Internet server company Montana Communications Network from scratch and expanded to serve 100 Montana communities.

"Monica will bring some business sense and other sense to Washington," he said.

Under an early hot sun in front of McMullen Hall at Montana State University Billings, Lindeen was surrounded by family, friends and fellow legislators, as she targeted access to health care, higher-paying jobs and a world-class education system as focal points of her candidacy. She touted her experience, first as a businesswoman and then as legislator, pointing to her workforce training program passed by the Montana Legislature in 2003.

She said the program had resulted in job training more than 400 workers in Butte, Livingston and Helena. Lindeen got the bill through a Legislature controlled by the Republicans and signed by a GOP governor.

"I can work with people, both parties, to get things done," she said.

Her current project is getting a school funding formula developed and passed by the Legislature during a special session expected in December. Lindeen, 43, chairs the Education Funding Select Committee in the House and is one of four members of the interim committee working on the funding formula.

Noting that relatives had served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, Lindeen took Rehberg to task for a no vote that killed additional funding for veterans health care benefits.

During a roll-call vote in May on an amendment to cut funding from the Base Realignment and Closure Commission by $169 million and add $53 million to various veterans programs, Rehberg voted no and the amendment failed 213-214. It was one many offered during the House floor session on May 26.

"Dennis Rehberg wasn't there for the health care of our veterans," Lindeen said. "I will be there. They deserve it."

However, the House-passed version of the Fiscal Year 2006 federal budget contains $1.6 billion more than current funding for veteran medical care and represents a 9 percent increase over this fiscal year, which Rehberg supported. The budget has not yet moved to the Senate.

Lindeen ran for the Legislature three times before winning in a suburban-rural district. Her current House District 43 stretches through four counties from Huntley to the city limits of Miles City. A business entrepreneur, she and family members started Montana Communications Network in May 1995. When they sold the business five years later it was the state's largest Internet service provider.

Lindeen graduated from Shepherd High School and earned a bachelor's degree in English and history from MSU-B. She has completed course work for a master's degree.

She served four years as vice chair of the Montana Democratic Party and was House minority whip in the 2003 session.

Rehberg won a contentious battle for the open House seat in 2000 over Nancy Keenan, the then-superintendent of public instruction. In 2002 and 2004, he defeated Democrats Steve Kelly and Tracy Velazquez.

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