Start your engines: General election races kick off for Lewistown

Jenny Gessaman
A politician stares at the camera dressed in a suit jacket, red tie and white collared shirt.

Larry Jent

Photo courtesy of Larry Jent

The general election is starting with campaign road trips, and Lewistown is a stop on the map for state candidates. Montana Attorney General Candidate Larry Jent visited last Thursday, headlining the Central Montana Democrats’ picnic in Frank Day Park.

Jent was an unexpected entry into the state’s political races this year, filing for candidacy just five hours before the March 14 deadline. He did not have any primary opponents and is running against Republican Tim Fox in this fall’s general election.

Jent has practiced law in Montana for 32 years, and is currently a criminal lawyer with the Williams and Jent law firm in Bozeman. His background extends into the political realm as well: Jent served three terms as a state congressman in the early 2000s, followed by two terms as state senator.

Now Jent is focusing on his run for attorney general. Although he has several open cases, he is looking to limit the amount he practices.

“I have a handful of files left, but as of Labor Day, I’m hopeful about being a full-time candidate,” he said.

Planning a platform

Jent is still developing his platform, hoping to add in issues that he discovers while on the campaign trail.

“There’s a bunch of things, and truthfully, as the campaign develops, I can’t say I’ve been consistent, but that’s because as the campaign goes on, things come up,” he said.

Jent is does have position to build on, though: His platform already includes several issues he started working on as a Montana legislator.

In 2011, Jent sponsored a senate bill establishing aggravated DUI as a crime in Montana. His focus on DUIs continues, but this time it will target what comes after a conviction. Jent explained an aggravated DUI is often part of a cycle.

“How do you do something to stop the cycle for law enforcement?” he said.

His focus on crime stems from his work as a criminal lawyer, and he intends to continue concentrating on the area as attorney general. Meth is his largest drug concern, especially when the illegal substance targets families.

“What do you do with the kids when you pick up mom and dad for meth?” he asked.

Jent did not have the entire answer, but felt the first step was to help stop early users from continuing with the drug.

“You’ve got to have a focus for the first-timers, and it depends on the offenders,” he said. “There’s a disturbing number of cases where defendants turned out to be good old Montana boys, just hard workers that got mixed up with this.”

“There needs to be greater education, and there needs to be, for the meth addicts that get caught, some sort of cycle to get them out of that first-time cycle,” he said.

Jent also plans to tackle sexual assault, as well as crimes against women in general. He described the treatment of some of these crimes as “symptomatic of a society that doesn’t take crime against women seriously.”

Jent proposed to tackle the problem by tackling how the law, and law enforcement, responds.

“It’s changing the culture about how we respond to allegations,” he said. “Not every allegation is true, but it’s how we respond, and have a protocol, and find what the truth is.”

Jent also believes in working on the state’s legal system itself. He aims to make sure the court system has what it needs, and promotes good communication between the attorney general and the district courts.

“As attorney general, you need to be out taking the lead, asking county attorneys and lawyers, ‘What do we need?’” he said.

Jent suggested modernization for Montana courthouses, including electronic filing, as well as increases in judges and district court law enforcement for some courts.

A sudden start

With his mix of political and legal backgrounds, Jent has always had an interest in running for attorney general, although this was not the campaign he had planned

“The truth of the matter is I always wanted to run for it, but I wasn’t going to this year,” he said. “And I was sitting quietly in my law office when I got a call from Brian Schweitzer.”

Now he is ready to meet Montanans and track down the state’s issues.

“It’s important to find out what local people are thinking and feeling, because far away, in Helena, people may not understand what challenges the local sheriffs have,” he said.



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