by Dan Brooks, Business Advocacy Director
I’ve had a number of recent conversations with members about the Billings Chamber weighing in on local elections. Generally it’s positive: “I don’t really follow local elections, so your communications are really informative.” But we get pushback as well. “Why get political?” is the crux of those questions.
With recent voter turnout for the local primary election at a mere 32%, the answer I’d like to give is: why isn’t everyone? I understand people are turned off by the hyper-partisanship and vitriol plaguing elections and the political sphere right now. But that’s precisely why the Moderate Middle has to be involved. Neither the far Left, espousing their fondness for Socialism, nor the far Right, with their signed pledges to never entertain new taxes, are good for business growth and economic prosperity.
What is good for business are candidates and elected officials who are job creators, problem solvers, and community leaders. That is precisely why the Billings Chamber Board decided to get political and communicate to our membership about those candidates who we believe will be good for businesses.
So, how do we choose those candidates, you ask? In making the decision, the Billings Chamber’s Local Government Advisory Board and Board of Directors weighed a number of factors including candidates’ answers during coffee conversation forums a candidate forum featuring all candidates, and answers to an online questionnaire that candidates answered. Taking all of that information into consideration, it was determined only three candidates met our definition of a business-friendly candidate: a candidate who supports the Billings Chamber’s mission to develop a strong business climate and quality of life that fosters prosperity. Business friendly candidates embody the following qualities: (1) job creator; (2) problem solver; and (3) community leader. Notably, two Wards did not have a candidate running who fit that criteria. The Chamber’s Board of Directors, consisting of business leaders from various industries in Billings, was in unanimous support.
Ultimately, we want our members engaged. You don’t have to agree with our endorsements, or vote for the candidates who align with Chamber priorities. We are hopeful that we’ve provided our membership useful information and opportunities to engage with candidates so they can feel more comfortable casting a ballot.