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Lavin Looks to Defend Seat Against MacLean in House District 8
Kalispell district has produced tight races, swinging Democrat and Republican in recent years
Brittany MacLean left and Steve Lavin | Courtesy photos
In the 2006 and 2008 elections, Kalispell’s House District 8 was decided by a combined 51 votes out of more than 7,000 votes cast, switching from Republican to Democrat.

Republican Craig Witte’s narrow 1,590 to 1,553 victory over Democrat Randy Kenyon in 2006, followed by Witte’s even tighter 2,029 to 2,015 loss to Democrat Cheryl Steenson in 2008, solidified the district’s reputation as one of the most unpredictable in the Flathead Valley.

Though the 2010 race was more decisive, with Republican Steve Lavin garnering 52 percent of the vote to Democrat Bryan Schutt’s 37 and Independent Bill Jones’ 10 percent, House District 8 remains one of the most Democratic friendly in the valley. Schutt had been appointed to replace Steenson, who resigned to take a teaching position in Latin America.

After running unopposed in this year’s June primary, Lavin is seeking a second term in a general election matchup against Democrat Brittany MacLean, a grant writer from Whitefish. There is no third-party candidate this time around.

In her first run for elected office in 2008, MacLean lost to Republican Ryan Zinke in the race for Senate District 2. Zinke secured 52 percent of the vote to MacLean’s 44 percent.

MacLean, 42, a fifth-generation Montanan born and raised in the Flathead Valley, said she knows Kalispell and its issues well. Her platform is focused on economic and community development through new industries and creative thinking, with an emphasis on quality education and workforce training.

“We need to create an environment where entrepreneurs can thrive,” she said. “Additionally, I think that a strong piece of economic viability and community strength is rewarding companies and businesses that are family friendly and have healthy work environments.”

Lavin, 45, a Montana Highway Patrol sergeant from Kalispell and also a fifth-generation Montanan, is touting the GOP’s efforts to improve the business climate during his first term, including lowering workers’ compensation rates and reducing the business equipment tax.

If reelected, he would like to continue lowering workers’ comp rates and completely eliminate the business equipment tax. He wants encourage more natural resource development as well.

During the 2011 session, Lavin carried a bill establishing the 24/7 Sobriety program to crack down on repeat DUI offenders.

“Personally I was really proud to pass the 24/7 bill,” he said. “I think it’s made the state a safer place.”

Both MacLean and Lavin are placing high priority on property tax relief, as well as addressing the state’s large pension shortfall.

MacLean says voters are tired of hyper-partisanship and the constant flood of negative advertising.

“I’ve had conversations with people who say, ‘What could happen if that money wasn’t being used to battle each other? What if that money was used to actually solve issues?’” she said.

MacLean considers herself an independent who is “dedicated to moving beyond party,” and she would like the opportunity to put her independent approach to work at the Legislature.

“What I’m really talking to people about is to not give up faith in our system and that it’s based on the people we elect to represent us, and it’s critically important to vote and make your voice heard,” she said.

Lavin said he has enjoyed going door to door and meeting potential voters a second time around. He said people are “more energized than even last time.”

With many people still out of work, Lavin hopes voters will send him back to the Legislature to build on last session’s successes on economic issues.

“I think the momentum’s there and I hope the voters in my district reelect me to go back because I learned a lot last time and I think we can get a lot done this time,” Lavin said.

“I’ll continue to work really hard for the citizens of Montana and specifically the people of the Flathead Valley and Kalispell.”
On 10-14-12, Cleve commented....
Steve Lavin is a man of the highest integrity, and a great representative in the legislature.  He displayed true leadership in the last session.  The number of serial drunk drivers is going down due to the fact that they are held to account if they drink…
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