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“I want to talk about our culture, I want to talk about the forces that drive decisions,” says Republican congressional candidate Tim Johnson. Johnson is the superintendent of Corvallis Public Schools, a job he says he plans to give up next year so he can focus on his campaign for the U.S. House.

A self-described conservative Republican running a primarily self-funded campaign, Johnson currently lags behind his primary opponents in fundraising, and in name recognition, but he believes his message can resonate with voters who are tired of well-worn talking points. He tells Montana Free Press editor-in-chief John S. Adams: “If you don’t have a message, in the long run it doesn’t matter how much money you spend, because the dollar bill that the candidate spends on the marketing side is not necessarily what happens in the voting booth.”

Johnson also chides national Republican leaders for their continued focus on tax cuts, arguing that the issue is used to pander to voters. “We’re not putting our foot down and saying, ‘Stop spending more than what you have,’” he tells Adams. “If we continue to do what we’re doing, we’re putting that question off to our kids. And to me, that’s unethical.”

The Republican primary includes five candidates vying for the state party’s nomination to challenge the eventual Democratic nominee in the general election next November. 

Johnson’s conversation with Adams is featured on this week’s Montana Lowdown podcast.

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.