Kathleen Williams Candidate for U.S. House At Large




Nelson: Good afternoon.  This is a podcast runs through it coming to you from downtown Livingston, Montana.  It's a hot day, which you'd expect at the end of July.  And we've got a lot to talk about, but we're mainly, this particular episode is an interview with a candidate for the House of Representatives, the U. S. House of Representatives, Kathleen Williams.

Nelson:  Good morning.

Kathleen:  Good Morning 

Nelson:  Kathleen Williams.  Welcome.  Very happy to have you here.  Very, very happy.  It's a beautiful day here on Livingston for the moment.  Although, the next round of thunderstorms is waiting.  Um, I hope this morning that we can talk to you about your running for candidate for the United States House of Representatives. 

Kathleen:  Correct. 

Nelson:  And you, of course, will be in the Democratic primaries on next year.  And while that's almost a year away this year, this election, the 2020 elections are going to be extremely important.  I think we are trying, we as people putting us on or trying to get that across that candidates are out early because this is so important. 

Kathleen:  Absolutely. 

Nelson:  And we're really glad to have you here.  The primary thing is we want to use, you know, use your own words to introduce yourself.

Kathleen:   Well, thank you. So I'm Kathleen Williams, I'm three term state legislator.  I live on the east side of Bozeman.   I have, um, worked statewide and hunted statewide and served statewide.   When you're a legislator, you, you represent your district, but you also, I know I always felt that I was trying to balance the needs of the entire state, um, and ran for this office in 2018.  So I'm back at it and confident I can get over the finish line.  We got the closest in over 20 years to unseating an incumbent and I'm just looking forward to, um, working on fixing a broken Congress.  That's really what's motivating me is, is just how Congress is not doing its job.  And I think we need people that have experience and the temperament and the ability to build relationships that, that can help rebuild that institution and get it working again.

Nelson:  Yeah.  One thing you told me right at the top was that I made the mistake of actually calling you a politician.  And you said that really bothers me because I am a public servant.  Right?

Kathleen:  Yeah.  Well, the word politician that I've, as I mentioned off the air, it always makes my skin crawl a little bit and continues to.  And I think that's a good thing because to me, I'm a public servant.  I'm a policy maker.  Um, this is a labor of love.  I'm doing it for the right reasons, not for fame or glory or riches.  I'm doing it to serve Montana.  Um, I know how to get legislation done.  I've been in the minority all three terms, 11, 13 and 15 in the Montana state house.  And, uh, I'm at a point in my life where I can dedicate time and energy and my expertise and experience to, uh, where I see a huge problem in a very danger of really losing our democracy.  And, um, if we don't get Congress working again,

Nelson:  Can you expand a little bit about losing our democracy?  And unfortunately, it's on both sides.  Republicans say exactly the same thing about the Democrats and the Democrats want to say that about the Republicans.  How do you separate that?  How do you come down on, on that?  What do you mean by losing our democracy?

Kathleen:  Yeah.  Well, I, I mean, this country is built on, on participation and on process and on fairness and law.  The rule of law, um, and congress really has abdicated a lot of it's authority, um, whether it's over, um, uh, defense or economic policy or immigration.  Um, they're, they've both abdicated their authority or they're not willing to step in and do the difficult work of policymaking.  That's their job and they're not doing it.  Um, and there's some systemic reasons I'm sure, but, uh, you need to, we need to get people into Congress that, uh, know how to do that work, that value, that work, and um, get that, that institution work.  And again, if you, if you watch hearings, I mean, there's some that are, there's some glimmers of function.  Um, but really they appear to me to be more theater than really deliberation.  And if people don't have legislative background that, that go to Congress, I'm not sure they'll know anything different.  Um, so we need to go there and make sure that the hearings are really information exchange, um, that the, that the proposals are, um, that there's back and forth that, you know, the Senate should be taking up some of the proposals or all of the proposals that come out of the house.  Um, it's just broken.

Nelson:  Yeah. That so-called stone wall that we're seeing now everywhere, but particularly in the Senate with McConnell, not Pence, not even allowing things to come to the floor. So, yeah.

Kathleen:   Well, or, or being so in the Montana legislature, really the work is done in committee, which there's reasons for that.  You, you have committees that become the policy experts on a certain subject.  In fact, when, when I was running, uh, last year and talking about the most important issue to Montana, which from what I've heard from Montanans, it's healthcare, uh, the broadest, deepest, most urgent issue.  Um, I was asked by a former congressman, Pat Williams, he said, well, so what committees do you want to serve on in Congress?  And I said, well, healthcare is the number one issue in Montana.  So I guess whatever committee works on healthcare.  And he said, well, that would be either Ways and Means or Energy and Commerce.   And I thought, okay, well I guess Ways and Means, cause I vice-chaired the State Taxation Committee  in the Montana House.  And I could put that experience to use, so on Ways and Means, which deals with revenue and taxation.

Kathleen:   And, but then I thought later, I thought, well, why don't we have a healthcare committee, right?  We need to raise a group of, uh, healthcare experts that are in the policy making realm and start having them deliberate over not only the financing mechanism, which is what a lot of people are talking about, but also prescription drug costs and, and the delivery system.  And so I mentioned that a lot, uh, on the road in Montana.  And sure enough, Energy and Commerce created a healthcare subcommittee, which is great.  Um, which will have a vacancy on it.  Um, now that Greg Gianforte is as giving up the seat.  So I look forward to serving on that committee and, and I hope that committee takes that issue seriously and really starts deliberating bringing people in, trying to understand the issues and developing policy to address it.

Nelson:   Yeah. You're talking at the level of how actually things get done. 

Kathleen:  Yes. 

Nelson:  And I'm afraid that a lot of our people listening to this are used to your politicians and other people saying, oh, we're gonna deal with health care or we're going to do this or that.  And then they don't ever talk about how it actually gets done.  Now there's a thing that is being developed that experts and policy are all dirty words.  Right.   What's your, what's your take on that?

Kathleen:   Unfortunately, so many words in our language have somehow been put off limits.  I've been someone who respects the English language.  I don't think any word should be put off limits. I think, um, you want to, you know, one person's expert could I suppose be someone else's, um, other word, but you've got to be able to have an exchange of information.  And I have a reputation for working with people of all political stripes.  So, um, if you have smart people on a committee, um, that are informed, that have good staff that are working to prepare you for a hearing or for a discussion, then uh, you should be able to see through whether someone is, um, bringing inaccurate information forward.  And then you need to choose people that are broadly respected in their field and ensure that those are the people you're talking to.

Nelson:  Now what's to stop that from becoming, so the, the word they use is elitist.

Kathleen:   You bring people who are informed in, but you also, you also ground these discussions in the experiences of real people.  Um, I talk a lot about the stories that have been shared with me across Montana and the fact that it's those stories that I really couldn't put aside.  And, and that really got me to run again because I had, I had developed in my mind and a strategy, uh, for, for most of those stories as to how we were gonna work on them and how we were going to, um, resolve issues or, or foster hopes and, and ensure that Montanans had a shot at the American dream.

Nelson:   Yeah. Can you in any of those stories stick out in your mind?

Kathleen:   Geez.  Yeah.  Um, so, and I, I get misty talking about a lot of them.  Um, but one was, uh, a young woman who, she was downstairs at a event.  We had an event upstairs at a restaurant and, and the event concluded, and I went downstairs and was just talking to people that were there, uh, socializing and I, I walked up to a table of two young women and they were chatting and I walked up and said, I'm Kathleen Williams.  I'm running for Congress.  If I'm not interrupting, I would love to hear what's important to you at the federal level, which is the, the question that so many people when they talk to me here and the, one of the women looked at me and she said, you know, you're the first person I'm going to tell this to but I'm dropping my healthcare.  Um, I just can't afford it.

Kathleen:   And she, after asking a little bit more about her, she was a single mom.  She had a nine year old daughter and I could just see the fear in her eyes of what would happen to, to her daughter if something happened to her.  So that one stuck with me.  Farmers, a guy in the, on the high line who, um, just was pretty frantic and I hope this has changed, but he could not find a market for his durum wheat.  Durum wheat is a valuable, um, commodity and uh, very specialized.  And uh, the fact that he couldn't find a market was, was pretty difficult to hear.  There was a barley farmer outside of Great Falls that, um, couldn't find any, um, storage for, for the barley.  There was another barley farmer, um, who wasn't, who didn't even harvest because he couldn't sell it and couldn't store it.

Kathleen:   And so, um, there's talk about increasing mental health and suicide issues among rural Montana.  There's stories of annoyances.  There was a guy who, um, in Broadus who, um, was getting these, uh, frustrated phone calls from people who were getting Robo-calls routed through his phone number, his personal cell phone number.  So it's just story after story after story and robocalls are illegal in Montana and there's just a lack of enforcement at the federal level.  So story after story after story, student debt, parents of students with student debt, Native Americans, um, the high unemployment and the need for drinking water of all things, um, that so many of us take for granted is not something that our tribes can always claim to have.  So, um, missing and murdered indigenous women.  Um, just I could go on your, your, this, this podcast is not long enough for me to relay the litany of incredible stories.

Nelson:   Well, I think the, the point is that you actually talked to a lot of people.  Oh, I get the impression that for you that's an important part of your experience, that they, as they say they resonate with you.

Kathleen:   Yeah.  That I mean, in the legislature I used to talk about and I still do about being a true representative, which is to me you're grounded in the hopes, struggles and dreams of your district.  And so same thing.  When I was a legislator, I really, I mean my background is 36 years in natural resources, but one of the first bills I proposed was based on the fact that there were cancer patients in my district that were being denied their routine care by their insurers. And that took me four years to fix, but I eventually got a bill passed that required insurers to cover routine care for those cancer patients and that’s saving lives, I mean those were life or death stories, life and death stories.  Um, so yeah, it's incredibly important to me and I think we've lost that.  As you know, that's when you become a politician is when you're not grounded, you're not grounded in the needs and, um, the hopes of, of your district.  And for me, this district is the entire state

Nelson:  Yeah, no as a piece of that, you obviously believe that government can help.   There's a lot of people on the, from the Republican side who are going around and saying, no, the government can’t help.   That these are issues that no matter what the people say and they don't, you know, the hurting that they're having government can’t help them.

Kathleen:   Well, I, you know, I think there's areas where government doesn’t need to step in, but when there's inequities, when the market is, uh, creating monopolies, um, I mean that's why we have government is when our system, uh, doesn't adequately protect the rights of, of the individual or the public benefits that, that we deserve.  I mean, public lands are a great example of, of a great idea that we, so I know Montanans so appreciate, uh, the fact that that long ago lands were set aside that we can now enjoy.  So, um, there's lots of things that government can, can help with and there's things that we need to ensure that government doesn't create greater problems.  Um, when we look at international affairs, you know, we need to make sure that we are working, um, to build our alliances across the world.  I mean, part of the difficulty right now with a rural Montana is that this administration put in place tariffs that they really didn't deserve to be put in the cross-hairs, um, of a trade war.  And to me that is government, uh, doing foreign policy with a sledgehammer instead of a scalpel.  So there's also important topics to talk about about how, how government does its business.  Um,

Nelson:   That's a good point. I was going to ask you about the tariffs issue, which affects a lot of, lot of Montanans, both ranchers, farmers and other people that don't even understand that consumer goods are going to get more expensive because of the tariffs. 

Kathleen:  Yeah.  Beer kegs are more expensive.  I mean, yeah, anything with aluminum and steel.  So, um, and now the retaliatory tariffs on, on goods.  Um, so rural Montana, um, not only is the international market that Montana has in many sectors has worked so hard to build opportunities.  Um, you know, there inputs that if you need to build a culvert or a grain bin or those are more expensive, so they're, they're getting hit on multiple sides.  And just as an example, um, Montana worked for 50 years to develop a wheat strain attractive to Japan and, um, and now, you know, it's hard enough to make a living in agriculture, um, in volatile markets and now they're even more volatile and unpredictable.  So it's tough.

Nelson:   Yeah. I've heard many stories of markets that our farmers would sell to abroad, China and Japan, other places. Um, and it's a, people have to understand the markets mean personal connections.  You deal with companies and people and you get a history of working with people and then you slap tariffs on all of a sudden the, the monetary, the money who makes money out of the deal changes and you lose those connections.

Kathleen:   Yeah. And there's, there's talk of, of how people say certain people are getting around the tariffs by shipping their goods to an un-tariffed country.  And then, and so not only is this a volatile market, uh, getting more volatile, now there's all kinds of inequities in it.  Um, and cheating.  So when I talked about Congress abdicating its responsibility, you know, the first when I first heard about the tariffs, um, the steel and aluminum proposed tariffs long, uh, well a while ago, my first thought being, again, a policymaker was why does the president have authority over tariffs?  And that's policy.  That's, that's Congress's role.  And, and I,  we were driving somewhere and I had time to Google.  And so I started googling tariffs and policy.  And sure enough, Congress over the last 40 years or so is, has one piece by piece abdicated its responsibility to the executive, uh, over foreign economic policy.  And we need to pull that back.  Yeah,

Nelson:   Yeah.  That's it.  As I recall, the various administrative departments would work up the recommendations on situations.  They'd give it to Congress and the congressional people would, especially the experts in the area would read it and the committees would take it up and then they'd ask questions.  And then the final decision was in Congress.  Right.

Kathleen:   Well for, for policy, for legislation, yeah. 

Nelson:  Not happening anymore. 

Kathleen:  Right.  Well, right.  So there's more pressure on the executive and there's more pressure on the courts.  So you look at the, um, immigration issues about just announced today that, uh, the administration is wanting to require people to, um, request asylum in a, I mean, that is policy as well.  Um, that is, uh, deals with, um, international agreements. It, it, so, yeah.  So that's another example of, of Congress really needs to step in and start developing legislation.  I, I watched a, a, um, a hearing that was, it was interesting.  It was late at night for me.  Um, uh, it was rebroadcast and, uh, it was the first hearing of the, uh, Select Committee on the climate crisis and that had been created in the U. S. House.  And the witnesses were young people.  They were the, I believe they were the young people that were pursuing the climate change, uh, case in, in the courts.

Kathleen:   And, um, one of the committee members, the U S has committee members asked one of the young people, uh, that was a witness.  Um, they said, well, why don't you just pursue your interests in the courts?  And, and the young man, he was great.  He was very polite.  He said, well, the courts interpret laws.  We need new laws and you guys make new laws.  And I mean, I just, I was in my kitchen and I thought, yes, you know, a 21 year old is telling Congress what its job is.  Or I don't know how old he was, but I was guessing.  And, and it was just a moment for me that that brought home that Congress just, um, is not doing its work.

Nelson:   Yeah.  Particularly the tougher the issue, the less they do it.

Kathleen:   Absolutely.  Yeah, absolutely.  That's why we need people that aren't afraid of that and are going there to, to help solve these problems that aren't afraid of difficult issues that, that, so I was also a legislative staff back in the 90s.  Um, again, my private career has been 36 years in natural resources, but, um, but I, I was fascinated with the role of generating the, the nonpartisan, unbiased information for decision makers to make good decisions.  And in my case that was on water, mining, and outdoor recreation.   I was the Montana legislature’s lead staffer on those three policy areas.  And so, um, so seeing policy-making from that side as well as to what information do you request, um, you know, who was providing it for you?  Um, uh, that is critical to making good policy decisions as well.

Nelson:  Good policy.  You keep bringing it up.

Kathleen:   I know.

Nelson:   And how do you get good policy in a climate where at least half of the Congress people are saying, we don't give a damn about policy or, um, or we don't want to touch policy because our constituents don't like it or don't care about it.

Kathleen:   Well then I guess my first question was why are they there?  Um, I think the reputation continues because I, I really do, um, feel it continuing, but, but I had a reputation in the Montana legislature and I continue to talk to people of all political stripes.  I don't even talk about working across the aisle because to me an aisle is a line.  It's divisive.  Um, so I talk about working with people of all political stripes and I did in the Montana legislature.  I, um, and I, I think that's one reason I was able to pass fairly complex legislation is because you get a certain level of trust.  Um, people knew that I knew what I was talking about.  Um, I would stand up on the house floor and I would say, um, excuse me, but former bill drafter here, have you read this?

Kathleen:   Look at page 27.  This is what this bill does.  Um, in committee I was known for asking, uh, respectful, probing questions that would change the entire direction of the discussion.  Um, and help people understand what a proposal did or help people in the committee develop an amendment, say, that could do what the committee seem to be leaning towards.  Um, so we have too much hyper partisanship everywhere and that is one of my, uh, one of my strong aversions, um, is hyper partisanship.  We need to do something about that. In fact, when I called Representative Gianforte the day after the election, I, I don't like to use the word concede, so I didn't, I congratulated him and then I said, and I was very tired.  I said, um, please let me know how I can help you reduce the hyper partisanship out there.  There was no response.  So that we need to work on that.   Um, the people we send are important to work on that the media is important to work on that, but if we don't start trying to turn that around, it's going to destroy us.

Nelson:   Okay.  That's it.  I think, and I gather from what you're saying, this is really important to you because you understand how legislation is supposed to work in order to get something.  Okay. In an environment where many of the people that are working on the legislation are really there to let grandson for some kind of ideology or some point of view and they really don't care about the mechanics and what's going into the legislation and that sort of thing.  How do you, one, obviously you changed it by elections, so you put people in there who don't have that attitude.  But how do you deal with that on a personal level?  If you're in a legislature where that's what people are doing?

Kathleen:   Well, I think you have to, um, dig, dig deeply for people’s, uh, true commitment to the public good and solutions.  Um, and if there are people that are not interested in that, then you find the ones that are and um, and you work too productively in the long run, expose, um, corruption and greed and um, inability for people to, um, put their constituents interests first.  Um, there are some, I, I find it both an art and a craft and a skill, um, to pull in, um, either constituents from someone's district to talk to them.  Um, I'll give you an example.  So I, my cancer bill that I just mentioned,  I had to get that through a Republican dominated legislature.  I knew I had to get it through a, um, committee that was headed by a very conservative lawmaker if the name by the name of Art Widdick.

Kathleen:   Um, I was proposing something that would cause a certain sector of the business community, meaning the insurers in Montana to pay more, um, which is not often well-received, um, in a Republican dominated legislature.  But the, and, and, uh, the chair of the committee I had to get it through was a cancer survivor.  So we had cancer patients call him, talk to him whether we needed to do that or not. I think he understood from his own experience, um, the importance of the bill. He let it through.  Um, I can't remember if he voted for it on the floor. I hope so.  But it passed the floor and was signed by the governor.  So you find unique, common interests in, in areas that take often some work to find, um, and you bring those to bear.  And not everyone can do that. But, um, but I find that to be a wonderfully challenging, um, creative approach.  Yeah.  And I can do it.

Nelson:   Good.  Want to mention it since a few, what is it, three weeks ago or now?  It appeared that we might be going to war with Iran. 

Kathleen:  Yeah. 

Nelson:  Um, so if people recall that there were maybe two or three days there where the average person listening to the radio or television would say, man, we were close to war.  Now normally, I won't say normally, but it is customary in the United States that Congress authorizes wars. 

Kathleen:  Absolutely. 

Nelson:  And, but we in the last, I don't know, about three, four decades or so, a lot of wars have actually been begun, begun by presidents doing something either officially or unofficially.  Um, there's a piece of legislation, the piece of law called the oh and I wanna,  I'll get this right, authorization for the use of military force or the AUMF, which is a mouthful.  Um, but that's supposed to be congress's responsibility for authorizing military force largely abdicated because it's an important issue.  And because we've seen how important it can be very suddenly.  Well, how do you feel about that mean?  How would for example, the House take back that responsibility?

Kathleen:  Well, there, there actually have been a, so that was, that was enacted in 2001 as a response to 9/11.  And so, uh, the, the wording is, is basically authorizes a use of force to, to find and, and, um, address, uh, the folks responsible for, for harboring or planning or carrying out the 9/11 attacks. Um, it, it was reinterpreted I think in December of 2016 to, uh, enable, um, pursuit of al Qaeda and, um, but it, it is old and it cannot, it does not authorize any type of use of force. Um, it is Congress's authority. There's been some attempts even in the case of going after terrorist groups to update that, uh, and, and those haven't gone anywhere. So, um, sure enough, we absolutely need to, uh, take back that responsibility. And, um, you know, there's, there in the wave that of people that were elected in 2018 there, there were quite a few veterans, which, um, I think is, is adding some depth to the ability of Congress to potentially, um, handle, uh, these important decisions. And, um, it would be interesting, you know, there's all kinds of caucuses. It'd be interesting to see, um, whether there is a, uh, you know, foreign policy or veterans' caucus in Congress because I think that might be able to provide some leadership on these issues.

Nelson:  Yeah, it makes sense. Particularly those people who have been to war already and understand what the implications are.  It's not just did you float around?

Kathleen:   Well, and it, it, um, there's so much to foreign policy.  I mean there's, my father was in World War II, my husband was a Vietnam era veteran.  My husband also went over to Iraq as a civilian to try and help them rebuild their agricultural sector.  I mean, so much of, of a peaceful world is about diplomacy and alliances. And it's not just whether you hit the button or not.  Um, it's not.  And, and so, um, all of this that, you know, the foreign affairs committee needs to be, um, working and functional and, and, and, and, um, astute.  Um, we need to fund our, our diplomats.  We need to balance, um, uh, a strong military with, um, a commitment to world peace.  You know, I mean, there's just so much we, we have to do and Congress needs to be in the lead.

Nelson:   Which is unfortunately not really happening right now.  Um, do you consider yourself part of the blue wave that wants to bring Congress back into the picture and play its role or..

Kathleen:   Well, I, you know, I consider Montana to be more purple than, and so, um, and you know, red versus blue party versus party, um, you know, label versus label is really not helpful.  I think, um, we need a wave of statesmen and stateswomen to come in and I think a lot of them were elected in 2018.  Um, and we, and a lot of people, I mean, look at the number of people running for president.  A lot of people are very concerned that the trajectory of our country is not going in the right direction.  And so we're stepping up to, to offer our skills, um, to, to try and fix it.

Nelson:   Is that one of the reasons that brought you into politics in the first place or? Um…

Kathleen:   Um, well I've always loved policy and um, I know that a lot of problems can't be solved unless you, unless you pass laws.   And I was, uh, in 2009 I was, um, my husband was overseas in Iraq.  I was watching too many Law and Order reruns.  I am was holding down the fort at home and being a, a partner, um, for him doing that.  Um, I was also all my life, I've tried to encourage people to engage with their decision makers.  And so I was doing workshops on how to help people, um, approach legislators, track legislation.  I was doing that for the League of Women Voters, um, which is a nonpartisan organization.   And a friend of mine knew all those things about me, including the too many Law and Order reruns.   And she was a legislator and she tapped me and she said, have you ever thought of writing for the legislature?

Kathleen:   So I actually, my response was, I'd rather be appointed, but that's not how it works.  So I ran, I was elected. Um, and there were, so my specialty has been in water.  Um, yeah, I spent five years as a statewide water program manager trying to, well and succeeding, and balancing the needs of, of water users with the health of our fisheries.  And, um, and I, I know that a lot of the way that we have a future in Montana, whether it's our natural resources or health care is having good policy.  And so, and having people in those positions that, that know state government and that, um, that know the laws, know how to read them, know how to write them.  And so, um, so I felt that I was a valuable contributor to that.  So this is one more step.

Nelson:   Yeah. I get the impression that you're, you really do believe that you solve problems by figuring out good ways of solving them as opposed to applying some ideology or some, some formula.  But you know, if you do it, even give it to the private industry, they'll figure it all out.  That kind of thing, isn't it?  Um…

Kathleen:   Well I think you, I think you bring values to policy making.  You know, equity and fairness and transparency and opportunity and those values that you bring.  Um, but, but yeah, I mean you've, you've got to have laws that work.  Um, and then really being in Congress, like being a legislator isn't all about about writing laws.  In fact, I think a lot of what I did was in fact I would spend every morning when I was out of the session, um, most people think of legislators going to Helena and for 90 days and writing laws and passing a budget, but a lot of it is, is what the term is called constituent service.  It's helping people who either can't figure out how to wind their way through government or are being either ignored or are not treated correctly or don't understand something. And so every morning before I went to my paid job at noon, I would, I would, uh, work with people from my district and actually beyond my district, um, to help them sort out issues that dealt with, with agencies or about the implementation of laws and programs.  So that's another thing in Congress that I am so committed to and really enjoy is just making sure the agencies are doing their job and um, and treating people fairly and, and that, you know, programs are being implemented in the way that, that Montanans deserve.  Um, so there's a lot to this congresswoman position I'm looking forward to. 

Nelson:  And it’s full time, right? 

Kathleen:  Absolutely.

Nelson:   No, I mean that's, it's 24/7. 

Kathleen:  Yeah. 

Nelson:  And it should be mean.  Let me take one, one topic which is kind of related to this.  There's a thing called the Violence Against Women Act, which is an actual piece of legislation.   Law has been passed and as you probably know, it's, I guess the best word for it is it's stuck in Congress.  Um…

Kathleen: Yeah, it expired.  Um, and there's been a renewal that passed the U.S. House.   Um, but it hasn't been taken up in the Senate.  Yeah.

Nelson:   Um, I'll, I would guess that your for re, you know, re, uh, approving it or...

Kathleen:   Reauthorizing.  Yeah.  Um, I haven't read every single, um, uh, clause in it, but it has some very important elements that, that, um, are critical to Montana to be reauthorized.  And one of them is, um, that there's a disconnect, um, about crimes, uh, committed by non-tribal people on reservations that it wasn't until the Violence Against Women Act passed that, um, there was, um, a way to prosecute non-tribal people for, for rape or murder or whatever the, um, the crime was on a reservation.  That is important to not, um, to leave our, uh, tribal neighbors exposed like that. Um, so that is absolutely critical.  Um, there's also an element in there that I was, um, calling for, uh, last time around, which was, um, that um, people who have a protective order against them related to domestic violence.  Um, if they were a spouse, I think it was a spouse, um, they could not obtain a firearm.

Kathleen:   Um, we were arguing that, that if you have a protective order against you related to domestic violence, whether you're a, a sibling or an intimate partner or a former intimate partner or, um, that, that, that should apply as well.  And the, the most recent version of the VIOA, the Violence Against Women Act did expand that circle of restrictions.  Um, there's, there's all kinds of programs that are authorized in it.  There's, um, there's resources, um, for, for victims of violence.  So yeah, it's, um, it's important to, and really the Senate should open dialogue on these policy, policies that had come out of the House.  Um, it's, it's a disservice to, to America and, um, the institution to not allow things to be heard.

Nelson:   I get the impression that that call it a bill, but re-authorization is being held hostage.  Why? I mean what w…

Kathleen:   Ask, you know, the U. S. Senate.  I mean it's the, it's the leadership of the Senate that is responsible for scheduling it and giving it a hearing, um, and so we need to ensure that we have people serving that believe in transparency and process and, and we'll allow that to be heard.  There's also HR 1, which is a voting rights act that, um, has a lot of, uh, uh, elements to it, um, including, um, trying to address the, the rampant amount of money in politics.  Um, so these have passed the House and they should be taken up in the Senate.

Nelson:  Yeah. In a sense you're advocating for legislation that does things

Kathleen:  I'm advocating for a process that, that deliberates, yeah.  That, that Americans can watch and see their representatives at work, hopefully. Right.

Nelson:   And then how do you overcome the attempt, I guess you could say a divisiveness so that they won't even have a conversation about these things?

Kathleen:   Well, you mobilize constituencies.  You, um, you work with the media, you work with people's constituents.  Um, one, uh, one, um, I was watching a another in this, this is, people are gonna consider me pretty wonky that late at night I'm watching congressional hearings, but, uh, there was a presentation of um, HR 1, the voting rights act.  It was a, and again, I don't like to be partisan, but there was a Democrat presenting it to a committee or subcommittee that was headed by a Republican.  And, and um, the response to the presentation was it just seemed like they were searching for something to kill it.  Um, the one of the complaints was, well, you didn't coordinate this with my Secretary of State and I was, I was watching that going, you know, if I were that woman presenting the bill, I would say, and I don't know if he was a Senator or Representative.  Um, I would say, you know, this, this is a 300-page bill or 200 or how many, however many pages it is.  It has all kinds of elements in it.  Give me two things that you like about it.  Two things.  Just give me two things.

Nelson:  Okay.

Kathleen:  And either they haven't read it or if they don't have the imagination or the commitment to policy to be able to pick out two things.  They shouldn't be there.

Nelson:  Good litmus studies.  I mean that is a kind of litmus test for…

Kathleen:  Great!  And then if, okay, then if they are able to pick out two things, it's like, okay, let's work on those. Right.  Let's get a separate bill that has those two things.  Right?  So, yeah.

Nelson:   Yeah.  And we have a 250 year history of doing legislation that way, which at the moment is, well, take another issue, which I know you know quite a bit about which we now call the climate emergency or climate crisis or given a name, but whatever you want to call it.  Um, that one is a difficult piece of legislation if it does not exist as a piece of legislation right now.  But yeah.  How would you approach that or do you,

Kathleen:   Well, so the way I talk about climate change, um, it, it is the crisis of our, our, and our future generations, right?  So, um, I talk about climate change in western Montana.  I talk about hotter, drier, longer summers and, um, more intense fire seasons and more tornadoes, believe it or not, in eastern Montana, um, earlier runoff, more precipitation in the, in the form of rain instead of snow.  All of those things I think you get head nods, people understand, um, that, uh, our system is becoming more, um, volatile and, and, um, and, and we're close to, um, not being able to turn things around unless we have some significant actions.  So, um, what, what I talk about too is the fact that I believe that Florida, which again, I don't like to be partisan but has a lot of Republicans in Florida, um, is finally figuring out that their communities are drowning and, um, and that I believe we're going find uh, to get things done in this political landscape you have to, you have to get bipartisan support.

Kathleen:   But I think we're gonna find some allies in, in Florida.  So I was saying that a year ago, more than a year ago, there is a, there was a little tiny climate change bill that went through the the U.S House.  Um, I think it was HR 9, um, that, uh, did a cup. It just did a couple of things.  One is it prohibited, um, any federal funds being used to withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.  And two, it required the administration to come up with a climate change response plan or a, uh, a plan to address climate change.  Pretty innocuous.  Um, but you know what, it had Republicans supporting it and one of them was from Florida.  There is a bipartisan climate caucus that to join it you have to bring someone from the other party.  I'm very interested in figuring out whether, um, I can join that, um, or get or joining it, basically assuming that it's, uh, it's effective.

Kathleen:  Um, there's some very interesting, um, fee and dividend bills that are one bill that, um, I always forget the acronym for that is being considered in Congress.  Um, I think with the, the intense hurricanes, the flooding that, um, has affected the heartland, um, that people are coming around and, um, and we need to foster that quickly, um, and ensure that not only are we passing legislation to advance, um, renewable energy and, um, but that we're also, uh, taking actions here at home and in our personal lives.  So one other thing that I've been doing is working to, to build my relationship with Northwestern energy are the utility for a major portion of Montana.  And I'm trying to understand how we can get more renewable energy into their portfolio.  Um, uh, and then in my own life, I'm doing everything I can to conserve. I, uh, when we're not driving the camper truck around Montana on our extended trips, we're driving my plugin hybrid electric Ford, um, which was made in America and, and, uh, and runs off of the solar energy generated on my roof.  So we need to do things at the federal level, at the state level, and in our own lives, um, to address climate change.  And, and I'm looking forward to getting there and, and getting those things going.

Nelson:  Yeah. I notice you, you really do have a feel for the details for doing things at very specific levels and you seem to resist the idea.  You haven't mentioned the green new deal, right.  Not that you don't know what it is or you don't have to subscribe to it, but that's not the first thing that pops into your head.  Your head starts with, oh, we need to do this and this and this and this.

Kathleen:  Yeah. Well I'm about getting things done.  The, the green new deal, um, is a set of principles that, um, that, I mean one of the principles is fulfilling our commitments to indigenous peoples.  Great.  Yeah, we should be doing that.  Um, so yeah, it's, but it's the how that I feel like is missing and you know, needs to be fixed and that I bring, uh, a special ability, um, in that area to, to get the how down.

Nelson:  Yup.  Makes Sense. Um, it seems to be you have a, I wouldn't say very positive concrete point of view about how to work in Congress and that's, I think you would say that's maybe what one of the great strengths you bring to your, what you intend to do.

Kathleen:  You mean an optimism?  Yeah, it's a practical optimism.  Um, uh, uh, fueled by, um, a sense of fairness and ensuring that Montanans, that we, we solve the problems for Montanans like healthcare and, um, that we foster opportunity and that we protect our outdoor heritage.  Those are my three biggies.  And, um, and so as I go in, I can be focused, um, I know how systems work.  Um, I know how to build relationships.  Um, I know how agencies work. I've, I've worked for several of them.  Um, I know how the private sector works.  I've worked there as well and I've, I've worked in the nonprofit sector as well. And so, um, yeah, there's lots to bring to bear and, and I'm confident I can have a positive effect.

Nelson:  Yeah. It's good to hear, you know, the specifics you bring to it. 

Kathleen:  Thank you. 

Nelson:  That helps.  So, yeah, I thank you very much.  So I've been, um, I hope, informative for the people that are listening and a formative session.  Um, you, you bring a lot of skills and a lot of, you know, background to these things.  It shows when you talk about it.  

Kathleen:  Thank you.  

Nelson:  So appreciate it.

Kathleen:  Thanks to your listeners, thanks to you and I appreciate the opportunity

Nelson:  Well that wraps up today's episode.  Really great to have Kathleen Williams here in the studio.  These kinds of interviews which are lengthier and more in depth than you usually hear are going to be one of our specialties because we have a chance to actually ask questions that make the candidates think and provide us with a little bit of insight into what they're really thinking about and what really is a priority for them.  What did you think of this one, a Dixie?

Dixie:  I thought it was very interesting.  I think, um, I think it was probably really nice for Kathleen to have an opportunity to, um, take her time and get a little in depth with, um, some of the questions that we were asking and, uh, sort of show her personal side a little bit.  I thought it was very good.

Nelson:  Good.  Thank you.  Yeah, I did too.  It was just, yeah, one of those, well, it varies every day.  Every interview is different, but, uh, we hope you'll stick with us and, uh, we'll be back in a couple of weeks with another show and a, another interview and we hope that you will enjoy A Podcast Runs Through It.