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A guide to the local candidates running for Montana Legislature

by The Western News
| November 4, 2014 1:52 PM

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Terrence Gill

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Steven Benson

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Donald Coats

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Rep. Mike Cuffe HD2

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Vincent Mug

The following is a compilation of the background information on the six candidates seeking election to the Montana Legislature. 

The Legislature meets each odd-numbered year for a term of no longer than 90 days. The 100 members of the House of Representatives are elected to two-year terms in each even-numbered year, and the 50 senators are elected in rotating two-year cycles for terms of four years, also in even-numbered years.

SENATE DISTRICT 1

 Chas Vincent (R)

Chas Vincent is currently the state senator for District 1.  He is a fourth generation Montanan who spent six years after high school working for his family business, Vincent Logging.

He earned a degree in Political Science from the University of Montana because he believes that the future of Montana’s rural communities are being decided in current policy discussions.

He is an avid outdoorsman and hunter, and member of Communities for a Great Northwest, Citizens for Common Sense and the National Rifle Association.  He is employed by Environomics, a Libby-based consulting firm.

Vincent currently serves on the Senate Energy and Telecommunications, Judiciary and Rules Committees and chairs the Natural Resources Committee.

 Terence Gill (D)

Terence Gill was born and raised in Chicago with seven brothers and sisters.  He joined the U.S. Marine Corps on his 17th birthday and served two overseas tours of duty, most of which was spent in Vietnam.  He earned his high school GED while in the Marines.

After leaving the service he joined a union where he learned plumbing and welding, a field which has had him working around the country. He is now retired.

He spent many years wandering the country and eventually gravitated to the west. He moved to Bigfork in 1985. He moved back to Chicago briefly due to family illness and then returned to Eureka.

He describes himself as a reluctant candidate who was asked to run, but is not a politician.

HOUSE DISTRICT 1

 Gerald Bennett (R)  

Gerald “Jerry” Bennett is the incumbent in District 1, House of Representatives.  He was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, and moved to Montana in 1960.  He is a graduate of Libby High School and is self-employed.

He has been involved in a number of community service organizations, such as the Fisher River Volunteer Fire Department, Libby Saddle Club, Pregnancy Care Center, Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, Libby Parks District, Libby Logger Day Committee and the St. John’s Hospital Foundation Board.

Jerry is married to his wife of 38 years, Malia, and together they have a son, Coby, and a daughter, Amy.  Coby is married to Bethany and the couple has six children. Amy is married to Kent, and they have two children.

Bennett has served in the Legislature since 2009 and is currently seeking his fourth term in office. He serves as chairman of the Natural Resouces Committee, vice chairman of the Judiciary and State Administration committees and serves on the Local Government and Rules Committee.  He also serves as the majority whip.

 Donald Coats (D)

Attempts to reach Donald Coats were unsuccessful. 

His distributed platform statement indicates that he supports logging, mining and the development of natural resources.  He also believes “that women in Montana are intelligent and educated enough to make correct decisions concerning their own bodies and decide when and if they want to start or increase their families.”

He also has stated his support for educators earning an adequate salary, for schools having adequate supplies, and for proper nourishment in schools.

HOUSE DISTRICT 2

 Mike Cuffe (R)

Mike Cuffe is the incumbent representative for District 2. He is a Eureka resident and native who worked and raised his family in Libby. 

He spent 30 years producing lumber, plywood, logs and Christmas trees. He was the plywood plant manager and lumber finishing manager for Champion International at Libby and part owner and operations superintendent for Lone Pine Timber Industries at Eureka. 

He began working for the Tobacco Valley News at age 12, earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and was editor of The Western News from 1972 to 1978. 

He also worked as press aide to Montana Congressman Dick Shoup and owned an advertising and publishing business before retiring to seek public office.

Cuffe chairs the Appropriations Joint Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Transportation, is vice chair of Consumer Counsel Administrative Committee and serves on the Audit Committee. 

 Steven Benson (D)

Steven Benson is 66 years old and lives in the Kootenai Forest west of Fortine with his wife, Barbara. He was raised in a very small farming town on the South Dakota/Minnesota border.

Steven first came to Lincoln County in 1976 due to his work for the Forest Service in the Yaak and Cabinet Districts.  Over the years he and his family continued to come back to the area – always intending to retire in Lincoln County. They bought land in the Meadow Creek area west of Fortine in 1986 and built their retirement home in 1999.

Benson was ordained as a Lutheran pastor in 1982, and his service took him to Malta and Opheim as well as other states and foreign nations. He served as pastor of the Christ Lutheran Church in Libby from 2006 to 2013. 

He has 11 years of health care experience including addiction counseling, mental health counseling and long-term care. He has served on community development and affordable housing boards and as a hospice chaplain.