Intelligent Discontent

Where Does Franke Wilmer Stand on Keystone XL?

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It’s been a week since the Democratic Congressional candidate forum in Butte, but one issue from the event has been nagging at my mind since I left: where does Franke Wilmer stand on the issue of Keystone XL? I e-mailed her campaign last week and haven’t heard back. If someone wants to clarify her position, I’d be happy to post the answer.

At the Butte forum, she told the crowd that she would vote for the pipeline and then work to amend it. She said:

On the XL, Montanans say repeatedly when asked that they want us to develop our resources and protect the environment, and I’m really kind of exasperated with it being presented as a false choice between the two.  I would probably vote for and it then fight like hell to amend it to reflect those values.  It’s complicated because it’s the only complete proposal.”

That’s a different position than Ms. Wilmer has taken on the issue before, when she seemed to signal opposition to Keystone. At the Bozeman candidate forum on February 12, she said that she would only vote for the proposal if it guaranteed jobs and environmental protection:

Franke Wilmer, a member of the Montana House, said unless the pipeline would assure more jobs economic benefit she wouldn’t support it.

“If this would guarantee more jobs, cleaner environment and lower dependence on foreign oil I would support, but they haven’t done that yet,” she said.

At one forum, in a town less dependent on resource extraction for its economic base, Ms.Wilmer suggested opposition and further study. In Butte, with a very different economic base, she suggested support, to be followed by an effort to amend.

According to Matt Gouras with the Associated Press, Ms. Wilmer earlier seemed opposed to Keystone:

Wilmer, a political science professor at MSU, is touting foreign relations experience developed overseas during her educational career — along with a bootstrapping personal biography of moving from blue collar jobs to an advanced degree.

And she is perhaps appealing to environmentalists helpful to a Democratic primary by promising to be a rare Montana politician — from either party — who opposes the Keystone XL as currently proposed.

When candidates in this primary are essentially dividing themselves into the moderate and progressive camps, it’s important to find out exactly where each stands on issues like Keystone XL in Montana. Three different positions on one issue from one candidate certainly don’t help provide the clarity voters need to make their decisions.

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