Hamm announces bid for Congress

Former PSC candidate wants to become Democratic challenger for central-eastern district

By: - May 16, 2023 8:16 pm

Kevin Hamm announces his bid for Congress on May 16, 2023 in Billings, Montana (Photo by Darrell Ehrlick of the Daily Montanan).

Kevin Hamm told a crowd gathered in the backyard of a downtown Billings house that he can help unify the state behind one shared value that transcends both political parties – a belief in being stubbornly independent.

As he announced his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives, he said the spirit that has made Montana so unique a state is characterized by its ability to support people over partisan politics. He told the group gathered on Tuesday evening that he was that type of person who respects and understands Montana’s “purple” heritage, a mix of both major political parties.

Hamm, who ran in 2022 for a seat on the state’s Public Service Commission, announced his candidacy for Montana’s central and eastern Congressional district as a Democrat. Montana’s current Congressman representing the district, which includes Billings, Helena and Great Falls, is held by Rep. Matt Rosendale, a Republican in his second term.

With the 2024 Election still 18 months away, Hamm told the Daily Montanan the timing gives him ample opportunity to speak with Montanans who may believe that the race is impossible for a Democrat.

“I am not a politician, and I haven’t inherited my wealth,” he told a gathering of about 50 people on Tuesday night. “I took the drink orders of the pompous people whose fathers were paying for their drinks, while I was worrying about paying my own bills. I knew the good people in the kitchen. I was ridiculed, but I was able to live here authentically anyway. I built communities in the hallways, and I built communities in schools. I have a life of solidarity with those who are working for a living.”

Hamm told supporters that he may not always agree with them, but he was willing to talk and return phone calls. He said that he’s heard from many Montanans who are concerned that the political reputation of the state, which includes a tolerance and respect for diversity and a range of opinions, is under siege.

Hamm’s background is in telecommunications. He is the chief executive of Auxilyum and Treasure State Internet and Telegraph.

He said that his campaign is rooted in the belief that Montanans still support labor, still value a work ethic, are concerned about the climate, and want personal freedom.

“I believe those are things that are more important than any political party,” he said.

He also told the group that he planned on being a representative for a longtime, instead of using the office as a stepping stone to the next political office.

“You have to have a representative with skin in the game and something to lose,” he said.

He said current discussions at the federal level have been frustrating and he believes as a business owner in the technology industry, he understands the challenges both as an employer and a citizen.

“I hear Congress talking about why it can’t raise the minimum wage. That it’d be too expensive to businesses. But businesses can’t find employees and they can’t find housing,” Hamm said. “It’s too expensive not to do it.”

He said some of those positions won’t make him popular, but he said, “I have thick skin.”

He said that politicians in Congress have to stop playing with Social Security as a bargaining chip, and that the effects of weakening labor laws and federal oversight have led to catastrophes like the train derailment recently in Ohio.

He said that Montana and the nation have wrestled with a stubborn housing problem, but he said it’s not necessarily a case of not having enough houses, rather it’s an economic problem: The houses are no longer affordable.

Hamm said he was intentionally starting early and kicking off his candidacy in Billings, Montana’s largest city, which is often considered to tilt conservative. He pointed out that even in the more conservative parts of the state, residents have historically been willing to split their ticket. He said he’s beginning early to let independent voters know they have a choice, even though most political analysts see the seat as safely Republican.

“Just watch me,” Hamm said.

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Darrell Ehrlick
Darrell Ehrlick

Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan, after leading his native state’s largest paper, The Billings Gazette. He is an award-winning journalist, author, historian and teacher, whose career has taken him to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, and Wyoming.