Republican gubernatorial candidate Neil Livingstone wants to bring business sense to state’s highest office

Neil Livingstone poses with fiancee Cynthia Tsai and dog Whisper outside of their Helena home

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.

Campaign Beat May 11 – Sally and Chuck talk about the latest campaign ads and robo-calls…

In this edition of “Campaign Beat”, our weekly political analysis program, News Director Sally Mauk talks with Lee newspaper reporter Chuck Johnson about new TV ads in the races for governor and U.S. Senate – which are warm and fuzzy and which are not – and those irritating robo-calls…


GOP Gubernatorial candidates release TV ads

Absentee voters across Montana are receiving their ballots for the June primary election. Election officials mailed out 170 thousand ballots this week. That may end up being half the total number of voters that participate in the primary.

Some hopefuls in the republican gubernatorial race think it’s time to begin a TV advertising blitz.

Out of seven Republican candidates for Governor, three are taking to the TV airwaves, focusing on jobs. Former Naval Officer and State Senator Corey Stapleton began airing his 30 second spot last week. He starts by referencing his former job driving aircraft carriers. He says he knows how to turn a big ship around.

“We need a ‘common sense’ conservative that will do things for the right reason. I can be that kind of Governor,” Stapleton says in the advertisement. Stapleton said in a Tuesday interview the term ‘common-sense’ describes most Montanans.

“We look at ordinary problems and have common-sense solutions and so common-sense conservative just means I’m one of us,” Stapleton said. He says his campaign is releasing another ad next week, adding a lot of military members vote absentee and hopes his status as the only active-duty military candidate will bring in that voting block.

Businessman, author and one-time counter-terrorism consultant Neil Livingstone– he’s releasing 10 television ads, buying up a lot of TV time. Livingstone says he’s buying the ads himself, along with his running mate Ryan Zinke. He believes most Republicans have yet to get to know the candidates for Governor.

“We think this race is going to be won or lost in the last four or five weeks,” he said.

The ads paint him as not a business as usual politician, he says this is about getting the state moving now.

“I’ll step on whatever toes are necessary to do that. Because the working man or working woman that doesn’t have a job today, they don’t need one in three years,” Livingstone said.

Candidate Rick Hill easily leads the Republican pack in terms of fundraising. His ad shows him standing in front of a fence post mill outside of Helena. He is focusing on his time as Montana’s U.S. Representative and as a small business owner.

Hill’s ad calls him a ‘tested conservative.’

“It’s not complicated, reduce regulations, prioritize spending, and get government out of the way so businesses like this can grow,” Hill says in the ad, pointing back at the mill. He says if small businesses in the state can each add one or two jobs, it will go a long way in reducing unemployment.

“But more important we want to find jobs that pay better and jobs like that job where we’re processing, manufacturing, those are some of the best paying jobs in Montana  and we’d like to see more of those kind of jobs,” Hill said.

Other Republican candidates are former state Sen. Ken Miller, former Department of Transportation Director Jim Lynch, political newcomer Bob Fanning, and Choteau County commissioner James O’Hara.

Recent campaign finance reports indicate they might not have enough money to run significant statewide TV advertising.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.