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State Rep. Tom Winter, a Democrat from Missoula, is running for Montana's sole seat in the U.S. House in 2020.

The seat is held by U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, a Republican who is expected to announce a 2020 bid for governor.

Winter, 32, is the first to announce for the U.S. House seat. In 2018 Gianforte beat Democrat Kathleen Williams, a former state lawmaker, with 51 percent of the vote to Williams' 46 percent.

Winter, from Missoula, is serving his first term in the state Legislature. He beat an incumbent Republican to get the seat in 2018.

He owns Interim Healthcare of Western Montana, an in-home care service provider. Winter said Monday his personal experiences with accessing health care in a rural state like Montana are driving his run for Congress.

“I have a pre-existing condition. I have a sister, she’s had a life-threatening chronic condition her whole life,” Winter said. “It just gives you a certain perspective.”

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As he knocked on doors in his legislative race, Winter said he heard from people over and over about concerns with health care. But he wants to make the jump from state politics to the federal level because he feels like there's not a rural voice at the table in the health care debate.

So much conversation nationally runs the spectrum from Medicare for All to doing away with the Affordable Care Act, Winter said, but he feels those debates skip over fixing problems in a state like Montana first.

"Before we start cutting down the health care system and rebuilding the entire thing, we need to have doctors and nurses and hospitals," Winter said. " … Here we're still working from a different paradigm. … We're not starting from the same baseline the rest of the country is."

During the legislative session, Winter has carried bills to preserve protections for pre-existing conditions and allow for online voter registration, among others. A bill he brought to revise unemployment insurance benefits for members of the military has become law.

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