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  Comments (0) Total Friday Apr. 18, 2014
 
Whitefish’s Lieser to Run Again
Lone Flathead Democrat cut his teeth during rookie session and is eager for a productive second term
Rep. Ed Lieser addresses the House during the 63rd Legislative Assembly in Helena. | Flathead Beacon file photo
Having honed his chops as a freshman legislator last session, the Flathead Valley’s lone elected Democrat says he intends to run for office again, and is optimistic that the experience he’s gained will help him achieve more in his second term.

Whitefish’s Ed Lieser took on the role of House District 4 in 2012 but, due to redistricting, he will seek election to House District 5 in the 2014 election. As a rookie legislator he sponsored 16 bills and sat on a handful of interim committees, but the lion’s share of the legislation he introduced died in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.

Lieser, 64, is a retired forester with the U.S. Forest Service and runs a forestry consulting business. He defeated Republican Tim Baldwin in the November 2012 election to reclaim Whitefish’s House seat for the Democrats after Republican Derek Skees vacated the position to run for state auditor. Before Skees, Democrat Mike Jopek had held the seat for three straight terms but decided not to run for a fourth.

Among the bills for which Lieser was either listed as primary sponsor or as the requester were measures to require septic inspections before property transfers, revise fines for lakeshore protection violations and provide procedures for nonprofit hospitals to convert to other statuses.

A library bill he requested would have given cities the ability to create or enlarge a public library district. The bill came partially in response to some concerns voiced by the Whitefish Community Library that the library’s district boundary should be increased beyond the city limits.

He said the septic bill and library bill would remain priorities next session.

“There were a lot of things that I had hoped to accomplish that didn’t get done. I took on a lot of bills and for a rookie legislator that was just unrealistic,” he said. “I thought it was the right thing to do because I wanted to accommodate the interests of my constituents. But it was truly naïve to think that I could learn the system and become as familiar as I needed to be with so many issues and try to communicate those issues to the committees. It was just too much.”

As a newcomer, Lieser said he worked hard to overcome partisan politics and learned invaluable lessons from colleagues on both sides of the aisle. He didn’t vote in lock step with other Democrats, pointing to property tax and business equipment tax bills that did not receive resounding support from fellow Democrats, but which he believed to be in the best interest of Whitefish.

He said it was frustrating to watch bills he believed in be gutted in committee, but soon realized that’s part of a representative democracy.

“Those are hard days. But, on the other hand I have to tell you I met some great people on both sides of the aisle. People who are taking time out of their jobs, taking time out of their private lives at really very minimal compensation to do what they think is going to benefit the state,” he said. “Those are the really good days, when you learn from people and see them contributing unselfishly and I just think that is a real benefit to us in Montana.”

Lieser formally announced his candidacy Jan. 6 at a reception at Crush and said he’s more confident having learned the ropes during the 2013 session.

“I have learned how the system works and I have developed some relationships with folks on both sides of the aisle that will allow me to communicate with them better,” he said.

“In a nutshell, there are some things that just didn’t get finished that I want to continue to work on.”
 
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