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Ronning enters Eastern Montana US House race | Regional news


Former Billings Town Councilor Penny Ronning is running for US House in the Eastern District of Montana.

Ronning, a Democrat, said she has been planning a congressional candidacy for some time. There had been speculation that Ronning would be on the 2022 ballot given she did not seek re-election this year to Ward 4 city council, which she won by a margin of safety in 2017.

“I was brought up in a very central home. My father is a Republican, my mother is a Democrat. It was very central and that’s who I am. I have never been extreme on one side or the other. I’m very moderate and never felt ashamed of it, ”Ronning said. “We have two parties. I am one of those who believe that when these two parties are healthy, our country is healthy.

Hailing from Billings, Ronning said none of the major parties in the country were healthy now. She said the federal office is a comfortable fit. Her mother was a lifetime federal employee, working first as an assistant to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and later to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Through the prism of the family, she became aware of the role of the federal government in the West, realizing that no matter what happens in Washington, DC, the consequences, good or bad, always lie locally. Ronning’s father owned the Happy Diner restaurant on Grand Avenue in Billings.

The local government’s decision to accept federal funds for Zimmerman Trail several years ago is a good example of the impact of federal policies on the hometown, she said. Steep, sharp and narrow bend, Zimmerman began to see more commercial truck traffic after the federally funded upgrades.

“Federal policy has opened up Zimmerman Trail to tractor-trailers. Now you’ve got this whole neighborhood that lives with the vibration impacts of those semi-trucks, or the Jake brakes that these drivers hit. They, the truckers, know no better. They just look at their GPS system on Hwy 3 and they exit by Zimmerman, now they’re flying on that twisty road, ”Ronning said.

“You have this whole neighborhood that has to live with this policy. My heart breaks for these people. Federal politics can be good, bad or neutral, but it is always played out at the local level.

Ronning, 59, is at the heart of Billings’ effort to combat human trafficking. In 2016, she formed the Yellowstone County Area Human Trafficking Task Force with Stephanie Baucus. The working group focused on massage parlors in the region where human trafficking took place. They also lobbied landlords who received rent from massage parlors.

“There are owners who collect the rents from these companies. And I think of them, and I’m like, ‘Wow, why don’t they do all they can to work with law enforcement to shut down these businesses and get out of their buildings?’ Ronning told The Gazette in 2019.

That same year, a former owner of a Billings massage parlor was sentenced to jail after admitting to taking women on a bus to Billings from Las Vegas to be sex workers in a massage parlor. The Montana legislature has worked to revise the state’s sex trafficking laws.

In the early 2000s, Ronning founded the nonprofit HatcH Audiovisual Arts Festival in Bozeman, a celebration of the arts coupled with mentorship for emerging artists. She owned a Livingston art gallery and was a member of the Livingston Downtown Association.

Ronning says she knows her neighborhood.

“Traditionally, eastern Montana is, it’s our workforce. We are basically the American workforce, we are the agriculture industry, we are the refinery, oil and gas industry, we are very attached to the land, we are very attached to generations of families, sometimes following our parents. We’re that in eastern Montana, ”she said.

The current Montana general representative in the United States House, Matt Rosendale, is running as a Republican in the Eastern District. There are also two other Democrats in the race.

Jack Ballard, Red Lodge author and photographer and former instructor at Montana State University Billings, launched his campaign in August. Billings resident Skylar Williams applied on October 25.

The Eastern District will be a challenge for Democratic candidates. In drawing the district this fall, the Montana District and Allocation Commission recognized that the region strongly favors Republicans.