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Challenger Velazquez seeks to unseat usual partisan politics

| October 27, 2004 12:00 AM

Democratic candidate Tracy Velazquez of Bozeman is hoping to unseat Republican incumbent Denny Rehberg in next week¹s congressional election.

A native of Connecticut, Velazquez has lived in Montana for the past 10 years. She received a bachelor¹s degree from Harvard University in 1986 and a master¹s degree in public administration from Montana State University. She and her husband, Dennis Alexander, have four children.

Velazquez has spent most of her career working for non-profit health and education organizations. She started her own consulting business three years ago and helped secure two grants in Lincoln County, an Environmental Justice grant to help the local school system track former students who may have been exposed to asbestos-contaminated vermiculite and a $500,000 Rural Health Outreach grant to fund the Asbestos Related Disease Network, or ARD Net.

Velazquez recently visited Libby to meet with local health officials to discuss the status of the Rural Health Outreach grant.

³One of the reasons I want to go to Washington is I think it¹s really important that federal money is spent wisely,² she said.

Velazquez also met recently with Kalispell attorney Roger Sullivan, who represents a number of local asbestos victims, to discuss legislation to reform asbestos-related litigation. She said she is committed to working toward increased funding for the Superfund program and to support the creation of an asbestos research center in Libby if elected to Congress.

Velazquez said she would also work to protect Social Security and Medicare and to stand up for small farmers and ranchers against big agri-business.

Velazquez said she would work toward building a non-partisan power base with other rural and western representatives in Congress. She pledged to be less partisan than Rehberg.

³I see myself as being another independent voice for Montana,² she said.

Velazquez said she would work with Republican Sen. Conrad Burns to support the expansion of broadband telecommunications in Montana as an alternative to traditional extractive resource industries.

³I think the future of rural Montana is going to be being part of the 21st century economy,² she said.