Republican Gubernatorial candidate Neil Livingstone has made headlines as a candidate for his diverse background. Stories have labeled him an ‘international man of mystery’. He’s considered a counter-terrorism expert and has written several books on the subject as well as making over 15-hundred television appearances. Livingstone is a former intelligence officer, part-owner of a Panamanian airline, director of a helicopter manufacturer, and founder of an international risk management and business solutions company.
The Helena native wants to bring that varied experience to bear in the state’s highest office.
Neil Livingstone lives in a beautiful stone home in Helena’s mansion district.
“Well, this home was built around 1903,” he said during a recent interview at the house. “It’s a a favorite home of many people in town. You’ll notice it’s not Victorian, this was considered a daringly modern design when it was built.” It was designed by famed architect Cass Gilbert, who also designed the U.S. Supreme Court building. Livingstone says he often has visits from architects now who want to see the place.
He is a multi-millionaire, but says his blue-collar Republican values lead him to his prominent campaign pledge. Here he is speaking during a press conference in the Capitol Building earlier this month.
“If elected Governor, I will not take a salary until I have created a thousand new private sector jobs in Montana,” he said.
The Governor’s salary is almost $110 thousand a year. Livingstone acknowledges he would not feel a financial pinch from refusing that pay. He says it sends a message.
“It’s a symbolic action to show solidarity with those out of work right now. I don’t know of another way I can do that other than the fact that I’ve traveled from one end of this state to the other,” he said.
He says he has been campaigning in traditionally Democratic parts of the state as well as Republican strongholds—spreading his theme that he’s a candidate who comes with ideas, not a political background.
“I’ve actually created jobs. I’m not a politician, I am a businessman,” he said.
He says he has enough friends and connections in Montana politics on both sides of the aisle that he will be able to effectively lead the state government—even without inside experience about how it works.
Livingstone follows traditional conservative values on most social issues. He’s pro-life, pro-death penalty. He’s against gay marriage but says he has many gay friends and firmly supports civil unions.
And labor unions.
“Where I probably am different from many of my opponents is on the issue of (labor) unions.”
Livingstone is supportive of labor union rights, something he says may help him succeed in places like Butte, where many vote democratic while being socially conservative.
He says he’s campaigning for working class Montanans whether they are in a union or not.
“Working men and women today have more in common with the Republicans who are gonna get them jobs and get the economy moving than with the environmental radicals,” he said.
Like his Republican opponents, Livingstone wants to open up natural resource development in the state and increase government funding from that development. He wants to pay for K12 education largely through natural resource development, for instance.
“I’d like to see resource taxes essentially take over so we can phase out everything from the corporate income tax and the business equipment tax to local property taxes. And I’d like to simplify the tax system. I’m a flat taxer, basically,” he said.
As for higher education, Livingstone says he wants to enact sweeping changes.
“I see duplication and overlap across the Montana University System. And I think we need to reconfigure it,” said Livingstone.
He wants to eliminate redundant programs from one University to another to save resources. He wants to put more effort into two year and technical education in the state. He says there’s a greater supply of better paying jobs available through those degrees right now.
But he is quick to point out he’s no stranger to Universities. He’s a former adjunct professor and boasts three Masters Degrees and a PhD. And even though he has made his millions travelling the world running large companies based in other places—he says he is still no stranger to his home state. He says he’s never held a driver’s license from anywhere else, And he has never voted in any other state than Montana.