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Montana Lowdown

Montana Free Press founder and editor John S. Adams interviews newsmakers on the hottest topics and issues in American's Last Best Place. 

Nov 12, 2019

Simms rancher and U.S. House candidate Matt Rains says his military service, diverse career arc, and global travels give him a unique vantage from which to address challenges facing Montana and the country at large.

As Rains tells Montana Free Press editor-in-chief John S. Adams, “I can speak for the agriculture, I can speak for the energy sector, I can speak for the military.”

Asked whether he could work on those issues from a seat in the state Legislature, Rains — who has no prior legislative experience — says he was advised by state Democratic leadership that he would make a compelling candidate in the U.S. House race. “My voice, I feel, is absolutely best utilized at the national scale,” he says.

A former West Point cadet who flew Black Hawk helicopters in South Korea and Iraq, Rains later traveled the world as a photographer, documenting humanitarian crises in Kenya, Afghanistan, and Myanmar. After returning to the U.S., he put his engineering degree to use inspecting coal and gas plants for a national energy company. 

Rains returned to Montana in 2018 to help his mother run the family ranch. When Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte announced he would seek the governorship instead of running for re-election to Montana’s sole U.S. House seat, Rains said, he saw an opportunity to put his professional experiences to use in congress.

As a Montana native who grew up watching his parents raise quarter horses and cattle, Rains says the primary reason he’s running for congress is to help ensure that farming and ranching remain viable options for future generations of Montanans. “We have to find a way to make sure that ranchers and farmers can prosper on the ranch, otherwise rural Montana’s going to just vanish,” he tells Adams. 

To that end, Rains stresses the need for rural broadband, statewide cellular coverage, and country-of-origin labeling to help make Montana farmers and ranchers globally competitive. “There hasn’t been somebody in the House that has really been a champion for agriculture, on either party, for a while,” Rains says. Republican House candidate Joe Dooling is also campaigning on an ag-centric platform.
Rains is in a three-way primary for the Democratic nomination with 2018 nominee Kathleen Williams and state Rep. Tom Winter of Missoula. Rains’ conversation with Adams, in which he also discusses energy, climate change, health care, and rural brain drain, is featured on this week’s Montana Lowdown podcast.