Dunwell Race One to Watch

Mary Ann Dunwell

Mary Ann Dunwell

Good news for Helena, a well known social justice advocate and longtime supporter of working families is running for legislature against GOP incumbent Steve Gibson. Mary Ann Dunwell filed in House District 84 representing southeast Helena and the city of East Helena.

“I want to restore responsible leadership to the state legislature, encourage public engagement in our government, and make sure that all Montanans can enjoy equal opportunity to thrive, prosper and succeed,” said Dunwell, who has worked as a state employee for the past ten years.

In a press release, Dunwell said her priorities include working for all Montanans to have access to quality affordable health and mental healthcare so they can fully enjoy Montana’s quality of life. She’ll work to create jobs that pay a living wage with equal pay for equal work, good benefits, and healthy, safe work conditions. And she’ll support a strong public education system from early childhood, through k-12, and work to make sure it’s not such a financial struggle to get a higher education.

She has worked at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and currently works at the Montana Department of Revenue. Dunwell serves as elected democratic precinct committee woman in Lewis & Clark County. She has served on the Lewis & Clark Brownfields Task Force, the Helena Citizens Council and the PTA at Jefferson Elementary and Helena Middle Schools.

Gibson has struggled to support public education in the legislature. He’s earned a 61%D rating with the Montana Education Foundation. Gibson shares Todd Akin’s position on forced birth for rape victims. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo. is the guy believes that rape victims should be forced to give birth and said that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Even as Republican candidates across the county have tried to distance themselves from Akin, Gibson actually voted for an amendment to the Montana Constitution to ban abortion, under all circumstances, with no exception for rape or incest (fixed link).  Dunwell was the first candidate to file for office yesterday, which was the first day candidates could file. If that’s any indication of her work ethic, Steve Gibson is in trouble.

Her campaign Facebook page is facebook.com/maryanndunwellforhd84

The Cowgirl blog will be highlighting important legislative races across Montana. Candidates may submit information, photos, and links to the blog tip line mntnacowgirl [at] gmail.com  The Flathead Memo is doing the same.   James Conner writes:

Flathead Memo will cover Flathead and statewide elections in as much detail as possible. If you’re a candidate, campaign manager, party operative, or someone who knows, please put us on your media email list and send us your press kit. Use jrc [at] flatheadmemo.com


14 Comments on "Dunwell Race One to Watch"

  1. Reading this article about my representative, Steve Gibson, I found it strange that he would vote for an amendment that would ban abortions under all circumstances. I clicked on the link that is provided in the article and it appears to be broken. I went to mt.gov to find the voting history myself and found that Representative Gibson voted against this bill. Here is the link to the voting record: http://laws.leg.mt.gov/legprd/LAW0211W$BLAC.VoteTabulation?P_VOTE_SEQ=H1389&P_SESS=20131

  2. I hope we will see a post on the woman running against Liz Bangortner. I cant recall her name off the top of my head but I was very impressed when she came to my door to introduce herself several months ago.

  3. It seems in your article today, there are some distortions of the facts regarding Representative Gibson and his voting record. In an effort to discover the facts, as stated above – your link is not operational! I also went to the mt.gov website and discovered Representative Gibson voted against HB 619. – see link to facts above. I do not believe the Montana Education Foundation gives letter grades. Representative Gibson has been very suportive of education. The best source of the facts can be found at mt.gov. Do not rely on hearsay. Check out the facts for yourself.

  4. OK.. In in the interest of fairness, I have to weigh in here. Cowgirl was referring to an attempt to make an amendment to the Montana Constitution – to wit, “that the Montana constitution does not grant or secure a right to abortion or the public funding of abortion.” Now while that is a far cry from Akin’s position, (that is simple monster making), it is something that Steve Gibson did, in fact vote for. The bill died in the Senate that year.


    That said, it is also true that when this bill (in a slightly altered form) came up (HB 619), Gibson voted against that bill as indicated above in Joyce’s comment.

    At best this shows a lack of consistency on the part of Gibson as well as mis-understanding of Constitutional law. Montana cannot enact an amendment to it’s Constitution that is counter to the Constitution of the United States. Roe VS Wade established the right of women to get abortions (in fact, Roe VS Wade established the right of every American Citizen to make choices on health concerns for their own body but I digress). This second bill also died in the Senate.

    • It isn’t all that unusual for a bill that has been killed in a previous session to be re-introduced in a new session – or even later in the same session. This is the case in regards to the attempts by the Montana Legislature to deny abortion to women in this state. I would wager that Ms./Mrs. Dunwell is far more likely to uphold a woman’s right to chose than Rep Gibson given his record but it is a question that should probably be asked instead of assumed.

    • Sorry it was just pointed out that I forgot to give the bill number of the original bill – HB 574. The House vote was taken on March 22, 2011. The bill died in the Senate on April 13th, 2011. The second bill, HB 619, the House vote was done on April 5th, 2013 and that bill died in the Senate on April 17th on the third reading.

      What really surprises me about this bill is that is it so blatantly unconstitutional. How the hell did this bill ever make it out of committee?

    • Looking at Steve Gibson’s voting record, he is far from being one of the real wingnuts in the Montana Legislature. He voted against Private School donations, he voted to pay the Teachers retirement funds, he voted against the repeal of same day registration.. the list goes on. This guy seems to vote against the party line more often than he votes for the party line. I am somewhat surprised he doesn’t have a Republican Primary challenger.

      • Moorcat, that’s what I noticed. Maybe the GOP figures he’s the best they can do in Helena? The seat could go blue if not?

        • Not really sure but in some ways, this will make Ms/Mrs Dunwell’s job a little harder. If Gibson was a raving wingnut like Skees, the issue becomes very easy and straight forward. If your incumbent opponent is a moderate (or worse, a respected moderate), you chances suddenly get a lot slimmer.

    • It is also interesting to see how his voting changed from 2011 to 2013. In 2011, he voted almost entirely the party line. In 2013, he voted more against the party line than for the party line. Quick question.. Was his he a new Legislator in 2011 and was the District Senator a Hardline Republican? If so, this voting record seems to make sense.

  5. Aware and Not stupid | January 11, 2014 10:25 PM at 10:25 PM |

    We’re fortunate to have both of these folks in this race, both are very much their own people who believe inMontana values and would vote the district well, representing state workers, union folks and East Helena families. Near as I can tell either way East Helena wins, Gibson is in no way a Tea Party Wingnut, Dunwell is more of an environmental progressive but a capable, well spoken, educated woman. They’ll both work hard, lets hope their respective campaigns keep it clean and stick to the issues and keep personal attacks out of it!

  6. Will she increase taxes to pay for an increased budget in 2015?

    • Aware and Not stupid | January 17, 2014 10:13 PM at 10:13 PM |

      She’ll be a team player for the democrats, they will be able to count on her vote for legislation that is important to the Governor and her party I’m sure. She is promoting herself as a progressive democrat. She’s a gracious, lovely Democrat woman!

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