Corey Stapleton engages with Fergus AP students

Friday, March 15, 2019
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Secretary of State Corey Stapleton visits with Luke Brandon’s AP Government class Wednesday morning. Stapleton was in town on his “Things That Matter” outreach tour. He also visited Winifred and participated in a business roundtable at the Elks Club.

Photo by Charlie Denison


Secretary of State Corey Stapleton made a special visit to Fergus County during his 56-county “Things that Matter” outreach tour.

For Stapleton, one “thing that matters” is visiting with students, so he took time Wednesday morning to speak to Luke Brandon’s AP Government class.

Stapleton’s 50-minute talk Wednesday morning focused on legislative issues, national issues, world issues, capitalism, populism, public service and more. He also tested the students on their political science knowledge.

“Do we have a Democracy or do we have a Republic?”

Students correctly answered “a Republic.”

“But do we have any aspects of direct democracy inside the Republic?”


“That’s what my job description is. I run the elections and oversee the initiatives and referendums that sort of form the Republic,” he said. “Our system is special. It’s a Democratic Republic or Constitutional Republic.”

Stapleton asked how many of the seniors had already voted, and many of them had, which encouraged the Secretary of State, especially after students who were ineligible to vote in the previous election expressed their excitement to vote in the next election.

The Secretary of State wasn’t afraid to ask questions that sparked debate.

 “Does anything scare you about what’s going on right now?” he asked.

Some students expressed concerns, and Stapleton reminded them to keep things in perspective, as people were scared when Obama was elected, as well.

This led to a debate about how President Donald Trump is choosing to run the country. Senior Morgan Davis gave her two cents.

“I don’t know what I would do if I was president at this point, but I feel like the bickering is getting old,” she said.

Stapleton agrees, especially when it comes to tweets and getting information out impulsively.

“I’m kind of a traditionalist,” he said. “I like order, I like ‘An Officer and a Gentleman.’”

But this problem isn’t just about Trump, Stapleton said; it’s a societal issue.

“Do you think this could have more to do with social media and exposure to the Internet,” he asked the class.

“Absolutely,” said Davis. “I feel like technology has given us the disadvantage of kind of an ‘us versus them’ mentality.”

When Stapleton was in high school, he didn’t have access to information like today’s students. Back then, he said, you got your news in the morning or after dinner. There wasn’t an “explosion of information.” In 2019, news is everywhere, and the President acts as his own communications person – a strategy Stapleton said caught many of the American people off-guard.

“Now we don’t even question it,” he said. “At first, people were like, ‘really, you’re going to keep tweeting?’ but he does. Reagan was the same way…bedside manner aside. He was well known for speaking over the top of the reporters and speaking directly to the American people. Trump’s not so different.” 

He does consider the current president effective.

“Putting pressure on people to get concessions could, in fact, be good for the country, if he’s getting China, North Korea and other countries to back off,” Stapleton said. “I give him that credit.”

Regarding public service, Stapleton said his desire to run for office started when he went to Boy’s State. This passion stayed with him as he went through the United States Naval Academy and drove aircraft carriers.

For Stapleton, politics is like “sports for old people.” Win or lose, he enjoys the competitiveness involved. That was the case when he ran for governor in 2012, and that’s the case again today.

Although Stapleton recently announced his candidacy for the 2020 governor race, he was in Central Montana on state business. Nevertheless, he shared a bit about his platform this time around.

“I’m not here campaigning, but I’ll tell you my focus is on financial and economic issues,” he said. “I don’t get real excited about social issues. In Montana we have a saying: strong fences make good neighbors. As long as you’re not hurting someone and don’t expect me to pay for it, you leave us alone and we’ll leave you alone. That’s kind of the conservative aspect.”

Stapleton said he supports limited government, adding that he does not support Governor Steve Bullock’s state-funded preschool program. This sparked a debate about welfare. Stapleton, for example, went to a Montessori program for early childhood education, but not all parents can afford this luxury, especially single mothers. Brandon reminded him there are many in the Lewistown district with financial struggles.

“Fifty-two percent of our kids here are on the free and reduced lunch program,” he said.

“I support early childhood education,” Stapleton said. “I just don’t support the state enforcing it.”

Students also asked Stapleton if he’d be open to a sales tax for Lewistown.

“If I am promoted to the new job, I’d be open to tax reform. I understand the debate fully and I understand there are a lot of elements to it.”

Following his lecture, Stapleton said he was impressed with the FHS students.

“These are some bright kids,” he said. 

 During Stapleton’s visit to Central Montana, Stapleton also stopped by Winifred, where he toured Mid-State Signs and stayed at the Winifred International Suites.

“It’s good to get off the beaten path,” he said, mentioning that he’s also recently stopped by Shelby, Conrad, Big Timber and other small towns around the state. Next month he heads to Ravalli County.



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