Missoula voters elected Democrat Sue Malek to serve in House District 98 by a more than 600-vote margin over Republican Will Deschamps.
Malek attributes her win to her “look-them-in-the-eyes-and-tell-them-who-you-are” attitude on getting to know voters, she said.
Though Malek, 57, does not live in District 98, she said personal connections sealed the race for her. She said she saw in many voters "a constant fear that something might happen because everybody is living paycheck to paycheck."
During the race, Deschamps criticized her for not living in the district in which she will now serve. Malek said voters didn't seem to care.
“A dozen or so people asked me, ‘Where do you live?’,” she said. “Hardly anybody lives in the district (in which they serve ). I think there are more important issues. We have all lived in Montana and we have all worked very hard.”
Deschamps could not be reached for comment after multiple attempted phone calls. He ran as a fiscal conservative, arguning for lower taxes for small businesses and exporting Montana’s natural resources to create a long-term stream of income for the state.
Malek said her differences with her opponent included “almost everything,” including the role of government in solving problems.
“I think more people are realizing that the government needs to get involved in issues,” she said.
Malek said she is excited to get to Helena and she hopes to be able to work on the state budget.
She also said she hopes to introduce a bill requiring the installation of ignition-locking beathalyzers on the cars of anyone convicted of a second DUI.
Malek, a UM Business School academic adviser, said she supports more funding for K-12 education.
“Teachers were worried about basically equalized pay,” she said. “We talked about that early on and what we need to be concentrating on is our kids education.”