Lewis, Zinke square off in Butte debate

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BUTTE, Mont. (AP) - Democrat John Lewis and Republican Ryan Zinke debated Saturday how a paralyzed Congress can be fixed in the first meeting between candidates for Montana’s open U.S. House seat.

They were joined by Libertarian Mike Fellows, who said neither major-party candidate will work to limit government and suggested former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden should run for president.

Zinke’s main message was that Americans are losing their trust in the government because of federal overreach and intrusion, but said things can be righted by becoming energy independent and growing the economy.

“We did it. We allowed it to happen. And certainly I think we’re strong enough to fix it,” Zinke said.

Lewis said a dysfunctional Congress has left unelected bureaucrats to make decisions that harm rural Americans. He said the solutions lie in cooperation and compromise with the aim of improving education and higher-paying jobs.

“We need an advocate at the table for rural America,” Lewis said.

Lewis alluded to Zinke’s primary campaign, in which other Republican candidates and former party leaders accused Zinke of shifting positions on gun rights, abortion and other issues.

Voters will never have to guess where Lewis stands on an issue, he said.

Zinke responded that he doesn’t waffle on issues, but the global economy is dynamic and requires research and communication.

“You are going to change your views on compelling information and truth,” he said.

The candidates debated the nation’s health care overhaul, immigration, limitations on federal power, gun rights and other issues in this first debate before the Nov. 4 election.

President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul has helped thousands of people but more can be done, Lewis said.

Zinke said the U.S. should “abandon ship” and come up with new solutions for affordable care.

As for gun control, all three candidates said they support Second Amendment rights, with Lewis saying more work should be done in the field of mental-health care to prevent mass shootings.

Zinke said the laws now on the books are appropriate, but he does not believe an individual should be able to own a Howitzer or similarly large, destructive weapons.

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