The latest candidate to step into the 2022 race for Montana’s U.S. House seat in eastern Montana is outgoing Billings City Council member Penny Ronning.
Ronning says she has known for most of the year that she would run but wanted to wait until her term on the Council was over before announcing a bid for U.S. Congress.
“I had never missed one council meeting, not one in four years, and I wanted to continue with that commitment. There were a couple of things I wanted to make sure were always front and center in Billings and that’s the public safety mill levy that thankfully the voters just passed. That needed to be the attention, not me being a candidate for Congress,” she says.
She also believes people are getting burned out on the continuous cycle of politics.
“My hope is that we can get back to being campaign season during the year that the election happens. I think that would be good for everyone,” she says.
Ronning is the second Democrat to her throw her hat into the ring for the eastern district. The other is Jack Ballard, an outdoor writer from Red Lodge.
She grew up in Billings and attended Billings West High School. Her father owned the Happy Diner restaurant and her mother worked for the federal government.
“I was raised by the community of Billings and having now spent four years on City Council, I see that there are ways that we can change the government at every level, and that’s really what possessed me to move forward,” she says.
Some of the most important issues to her are the crimes of human and drug trafficking—something she has worked with law enforcement across the state on.
“We have an issue on our southern border, but we also have an issue with demand and that is what drives the southern border issue is the demand that we have right here in the United States,” she says.
She also says it’s important to address issues such as healthcare, prescription drugs, and affordable housing.
Whoever wins the primary faces a tough task, most likely against incumbent Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale. Not only will Rosendale have a huge advantage in his campaign coffers, but the new eastern district lines are deemed to favor Republicans.
“I was raised to always believe that it should be people over politics and community over self. That’s the ethics of how I was raised. I think as a country we need to focus on issues and not political parties. And that is my hope that we can get back to voting for a person instead of voting for a party,” Ronning says.