Senate President Scott Sales, R-Bozman. Credit: Courtesy photo

Montana Senate President Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, was a guest on the MT Lowdown podcast last week, where he discussed with Montana Free Press founder John S. Adams his 16 years in the Montana Legislature, his prior professional experiences in computer technology and agriculture, and his current candidacy for Montana secretary of state.

Sales is the only Montana lawmaker to have served as both speaker of the House and president of the Senate. A self-described constitutional Republican, Sales is a reliably staunch conservative with a reputation for opposing government spending and shooting straight. Democrats occupied the governor’s office throughout Sales’ legislative career, and the Republican caucuses he led were often divided — sometimes bitterly — between more conservative lawmakers such as Sales and more moderate Republicans who were willing to compromise with Democrats to pass legislation.

Reflecting on his years in the state capitol, Sales said, “I thought that … the Republicans would be more conservative-minded like myself, and it turned out I was quite a bit to the right of most of my caucus members. … I wanted to make some huge changes and coerce some of my moderate brethren into maybe thinking the way I did. That’s not the way the place works. … A mature individual learns what you can get done, and what you can’t get done, in your environment.”

Now seeking the job of the state’s top elections official, Sales calls the right to vote “a cornerstone of the foundation of the country,” and says that our state’s voting systems require a “fine balance” between integrity and flexibility. 

The secretary of state also occupies one of five seats on the State Land Board. When considering his potential seat on the board, Sales noted that “There’s a constitutional obligation for us to maximize the amount of benefit financially from those lands for the benefit of the schools,” adding, “We can develop our resources … in an environmentally friendly fashion.” Sales went on to say that while he does accept that climate change is happening, he also believes that “It is not confirmed science that man-made climate change is upon us.”

Sales will be termed out of the Senate in 2020, and is running in the Republican primary against Rep. Forrest Mandeville (HD 57). Democratic challenger Sen. Bryce Bennett (SD 50) is running unopposed, and discussed his candidacy on a recent episode of MT Lowdown.

Montana Free Press was founded by veteran award-winning investigative and political reporter John S. Adams. John was formerly the Capital Bureau Chief of the Great Falls Tribune and a correspondent for USA TODAY. John is known as a dogged investigator and the host of the MT Lowdown podcast whose unbiased reporting has changed the shape of Montana politics. Contact John at jadams@montanafreepress.org, or follow him on Twitter.