Read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.
MH: You've been traveling the state for months, going to every county Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner to talk to Republican party faithful, and meeting Montanans of all political persuasions. Are there any common themes that you are hearing from voters that have affected how you are thinking about the job of State Auditor and about what the next Auditor needs to do to respond to those concerns?
Duane Grimes: As I have talked with folks across the political spectrum including small business people, families, ranchers, and seniors, I have come to truly appreciate the depth to which the actions taken by the State Auditor’s office affect every single person at the core of their (financial) security: one’s ability to receive healthcare, making an honest living, becoming financially independent, ensuring their families’ and their children’s futures.
This race is easy to overlook when compared to such high-profile ones as President or Governor which are also on the ballot, but it has humbled me to realize how vitally important a tough, fair and impartial regulator is to the daily lives of every Montanan.
MH: You were the first Montana Republican candidate, at least that we noted, to make a point of reaching out to bloggers on your website. How have you seen the Internet affect your efforts to get your message out in 2008, compared to your previous run for State Auditor and your previous legislative races?
Duane Grimes: My two sons think this whole blogging thing is great and are excited that Dad is finally getting into it. This race isn’t as high-profile as others; we don’t get the media coverage others do. But it’s extremely important for voters to know how the State Auditor’s office affects their daily lives and blogs are a great outlet.
In that way, it has been night and day the difference I’ve found that the internet, including websites, e-mail, and blogs have provided the ability for myself as a statewide candidate to reach so many more voters. Hopefully, in a small way, this has helped voters be more informed about the issues of the Auditor’s office and feel they can reach out directly to me as a candidate.
MH: To end on a lighter note, there has been a great war of ideas "raging" in the Montana blogosphere in recent days about "Operation Chaos." At the risk of putting you on the outs with Rush Limbaugh and at least one Montana blogger who feels differently, can Montana Headlines ask whether you want Republicans to turn out on June 3rd to vote for Duane Grimes in your (unopposed) primary -- or whether you think your candidacy would be better served by having Republicans vote for Hillary Clinton to foment chaos in the Democratic ranks?
There's no right answer to this question -- but the future peace and tranquility of the Montana blogosphere does depend on it.
Duane Grimes: Frankly, I don’t think having Republicans vote for Hillary Clinton and potentially fomenting ‘chaos’ in the Democratic ranks would have a huge impact on the race for Montana State Auditor! (Nor would being on the outs with Rush Limbaugh bother me too much… but it would be good campaign press…!)
This may sound like the politically-correct answer, but Montanans have the freedom to choose which ballot they want to vote in the primary. While I am all-for promoting ‘peace and tranquility’ in the Montana blogosphere, I need every vote I can get!
This is a great opportunity for folks to get in the habit of voting Grimes!
MH: It's funny that you say that -- a contemplated MH post at one point was going to be the announcement of "Operation Practice Voting Republican." It doesn't sound as exciting as "Chaos," though, so that post never got off the ground.
So, any final comments for MH readers?
Duane Grimes: Yes, and thank you. I would like to take the opportunity to directly address an aspect of the healthcare debate: how do we stem rising costs?
There are many ideas out there about how to see that all citizens have access to health insurance, and addressing this challenge is a key issue in the race for State Auditor.
But let’s backup a minute. Isn’t the primary cause of the lack of access to affordable health insurance the ever-rising cost of healthcare for all of us? This is the root of the problem and until those in a position to do so – such as the State Auditor and others – take a stand to fix the system, basic healthcare for Montana families and citizens both young and old will only become more out of reach.
One of the biggest factors in rising costs is the lack of free-market competitiveness in our health care system. But how can these costs be stemmed? I believe that one way is by adding transparency to the process.
We know the costs of virtually everything else we pay for – a loaf of bread, an oil change – but have a hard time getting prices and out of pocket costs when we need vital healthcare. If we actually know those costs we would be able to compare prices and be more informed consumers. Transparency of costs would allow for a more competitive health marketplace.
There are a number of efforts currently involved in transparency, led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Leavitt and the National Institutes of Health at the federal level, as well as the health care forum and legislative committees here in Montana, all of which I will work with to make our health care system and its costs more transparent to every citizen.
Frankly, the State Auditor has the ability to be a key player in the health care costs equation and, in fact, has a responsibility to Montana citizens to ensure a balanced marketplace of health insurance options. By improving the insurance climate through tough but fair and impartial regulation, consumers will win by having a better choice of affordable insurance options and honest businesses will want to do business here. These are the best means to work toward long-term solutions to holding down the costs of health care for everyone.
MH: That's a very interesting angle to approaching health care costs through the Auditor's office. It will be good to watch as these and other issues develop during the course of the campaign. And that's a good place to wrap things up for now.
Thank-you again for taking the time for this interview -- it would be nice to do an update a few months down the road if you have time. Good luck in the campaign.