Shane Morigeau is one of those exceptionally bright, talented rising stars who seems destined for success on whatever path he chooses. Montanans can count ourselves fortunate that he has chosen a career in public service.
As the Democratic candidate for state auditor, a position that includes the title of commissioner of securities and exchange, Morigeau would be a trustworthy public servant who can be counted on to fairly enforce the laws, protect both business owners and consumers, and always put Montanans’ interests ahead of his own.
The state auditor must have a keen understanding of complex regulations and even more complex industries while maintaining a focus on fiscal transparency and not getting lost in the minutia. The auditor also serves on the five-member State Land Board, a role Morigeau is ideally positioned to fill with his educational background, as well as his firsthand experience as a hunter, angler and vocal advocate for public lands access.
Western Montanans already know Morigeau well. Born and raised in Ronan, he is a member of the Salish and Kootenai Tribes who has represented the tribes as an attorney. He has a degree in resource conservation and spent summers fighting fires. He graduated from the University of Montana Law School, lives in Missoula today and has represented Missoula constituents for two terms in the Montana House, serving as the minority whip in the most recent session.
Morigeau has sponsored a number of important bipartisan bills that passed in a Republican-dominated Legislature, dealing with everything from cryptocurrency, to mortgage laws, to child sexual abuse statutes.
If elected auditor, Morigeau has pledged to take a hands-on approach to the cases that come before his office, making it a priority to ensure fair and affordable health insurance rates, crack down on fraud aimed at vulnerable populations such as veterans and the elderly, and make it his mission to block “junk insurance” plans that don’t deliver on their promises.
His Republican opponent, Troy Downing, has direct experience in the insurance and securities industries as part of his extensive business background, as well as a respectable record of service as a combat veteran. Earlier this year, in response to the growing need caused by the coronavirus, the Bozeman-based distillery he owns began producing hand sanitizer to distribute to the Montana Highway Patrol, National Guard, the U.S. Postal Service and others.
But Downing has had some trouble following the letter of law, pleading guilty to two misdemeanors for obtaining resident hunting and fishing licenses while his primary residence was in California, and then racking up seven campaign finance violations earlier this year. Most troubling, he has demonstrated a persistent inability to admit to his mistakes or show he’s learned from them. His preposterous response to the Fish, Wildlife and Parks citations was to say, “It’s unfortunate the liberal Montana FWP deep state is on a witch hunt."
This month Downing is on the defensive again, denying accusations that he threatened his ex-wife in 2002 and attempted to underpay child support during divorce proceedings.
Those elected to a position of public trust enforcing Montana’s laws should be dedicated to following Montana’s laws themselves, even the little ones they don’t deem that important, and willing to hold themselves accountable. Shane Morigeau would be a trustworthy state auditor.
This editorial represents the views of the Missoulian Editorial Board: Publisher Jim Strauss, Regional Editor David McCumber and Opinion Editor Tyler Christensen.
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