Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen
Attorney General Austin Knudsen. Credit: Photo courtesy Austin Knudsen

Montana Free Press continues its coverage of the state attorney general’s race with an interview with Republican candidate and current Roosevelt County attorney Austin Knudsen. Knudsen talked to Montana Free Press founder and Montana Lowdown host John S. Adams on Aug. 22.

Knudsen represented House District 34 for four sessions starting in 2011. In 2014, he was elected as the youngest-ever speaker of the House at a time when his caucus was in the midst of a long-standing ideological divide that continues to this day. 

Knudsen’s House term ended in 2017, and rather than pursue a seat in the state Senate, Knudsen ran for Roosevelt County attorney, a job to which voters elected him in 2018.

Now, after six months in that position, Knudsen has his sights set on the attorney general’s office. 

Said Knudsen: “I think this is an office that needs aggressive conservative leadership. I don’t think we’ve had that for the last eight years. I really don’t think [Republican candidate] Jon Bennion will bring that into the attorney general’s office, either.”

Knudsen asserts that while the nation grapples with an epidemic of opioid addiction, it’s methamphetamine that is wreaking havoc across rural Montana. He says he doesn’t believe the current attorney general, Republican Tim Fox, nor Fox’s chief deputy, Bennion, have done enough to curb the flow of meth from the southern border. 

“I do think the attorney general’s office can do a lot more to address the crime problem in Montana, because there is one,” Knudsen said “It all comes back to the meth epidemic that’s here in Montana … This meth is destroying our communities, it’s destroying families, and it’s all coming through that southern border because it’s unsecured.”

This is the fourth Montana Lowdown interview covering the attorney general’s race. Adams previously interviewed Deputy Attorney General Bennion; Democrat and Gov. Bullock’s chief legal counsel Raph Graybill; and Missoula attorney and four-term Democratic state Rep. Kimberly Dudik. A third Democratic candidate, Kalispell attorney James Cossitt, has also entered the race.

Alex McKenzie has worked with a diverse array of start-ups and nonprofit organizations. He is a former record producer and music journalist, has additional experience working in agriculture and food security, and previously operated his own dairy business. He lives in southwest Montana. Follow him on Twitter.