Ralph Foster (R)

Montana House District 15

House District 15

Recent history of House District 15 is important to understand why the district makes no geographic sense.

The creation of this district was to make possible a Native Majority in hopes of having minority representation reflected in the State Legislature. Both the Blackfeet & CSKT wrote letters in support. However, the CSKT felt that this would have the effect of having representation come from the Flathead Reservation. In turn the gerrymandering of district has lead to a district that has voted to have a Democrat legislator 25 of the last 26 elections with almost all of the Representatives being from the Blackfeet Reservation and leaving the Flathead and Swan areas of the district without any real representation as both are very geographically removed from the Blackfeet Reservation.

My election would enable representation to both Blackfeet & CSKT areas as I have business interest on both reservations.

Campaign Trail

Property Taxes

I feel that in order to offer long term property tax relief, one should freeze the value of your primary residence at the purchase price. Inherited property is subject to reevaluation unless it becomes the primary residence of the heir.

However, as one who has read the Montana Constitution, it might be time for citizens to ask why we pay taxes to the State. The constitution clearly states that the State of Montana does not have any control over Indians and Indian Lands. There are boundaries that were established to form Indian Lands/Nations.

Shouldn't these boundaries be honored making all of us residents of Indian lands? Reservations were opened by the Federal Government who knew where the boundaries were at.

It is obvious that the State does not want to fund the Reservations for if they did the PL 280 issue would not exist.

Healthcare for All
Expansion is necessary. In my opinion health care is a right that should be guaranteed. Current funding is tied to this expansion and Obama Care. These programs help fund Indian Health Care programs as well as the many that need assistance. Our district has a large population that lives under the poverty line and in some instance the Reservations in our district have been exempt from several criteria for this reason. Other programs such as the CHIP Program are a step in the right direction.
While there are many people who need these services. Many also need expansion of other assistance. The assistance that I am referring to is the Montana Snap Program. An expansion of the items to be purchased so that a household can have toiletries and cleaning products can make a difference to one who is struggling to make ends meet. Also, a safety net for a housing deposit, childcare or approved unexpected expenses should also be considered. However accountability standards for recipients who are able bodied should be put into place.
Affordable Housing

Look to the past for solutions. Until Roosevelt’s New Deal it was common for employers to offer and build housing for their employees. By making appropriate housing accommodations to retain employees, large businesses would benefit with tax deductions.

In turn this would begin to alleviate the housing shortage we face in the state, and ultimately reduce demand on rentals bringing down rental rates.

Game and Fish

The need to establish clear communication between the State, Federal & Tribal entities is paramount. Bears, mountain lions and various forms of wildlife do not know when they leave wilderness and enter the reservations and vice versa.

As for hunting, current rules and regulations in this state are adequate. However, if you own the land you should be able to determine who hunts on it providing there is a legal season to do so.

Supporting Local Businesses

Support of local businesses is critical. A dollar spent at a local business circulates 5 times through the community while one spent on line or at a large corporation is sent out of state and minimal benefit is seen.

While I feel that the day of extraction industries may be quickly coming to a close. We as a state need to seek & find local ways to keep people employed. It is important in my opinion that Montana retains the identity that those native Montanans helped establish.

About Me

I am Ralph Foster, candidate for HD 15. I have been a resident of St. Ignatius for the last 28 years with my wife Phyllis Haynes, a retired teacher for the CSKT Headstart program. For those that may not know who I am I will give you a little background and history of how I came to be here.

I am the oldest of five children born to Ralph & Shirley (Winters) Foster. I was born in the Ozarks where my father was a Quaker minister and school teacher and my mom was a stay-at-home mother. My dad’s family was from Maritime Canada / New England and my mother’s family was relocated to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears and later left Oklahoma settling in Kansas and Nebraska after Oklahoma became a state.

As a child I was raised in the High Plains region of KS, CO, & NE. I consider Kansas to be where I am from as my parents still live there.

I graduated from the State of Kansas Regent system starting at Fort Hays Univ. where I studied a pre-professional/business curriculum and finished my Mortician’s degree in Kansas City, Kansas serving my practicum at KU Med and the Menninger Clinic. Further studies in religion and ethics were pursued at Friends Univ.

In 1984, after finishing most of my education I moved to Plains, Montana and have also lived in Anaconda and Three Forks, Montana. In 1996 I moved St. Ignatius and have lived here since.

My wife is retired from the CSKT HeadStart program where she was a teacher for over 35 years. Phyllis & I own Foster Funeral Home and Crematory in St. Ignatius where I have been the mortician since 1996. Until November of 2023 we also owned the funeral home in Browning but at that time we chose to sell as my wife is a recent transplant recipient and we knew that over the next year we would be spending a great deal of time away from home and Montana because of this.

I have been a Mortician for 42 years. Previously licensed in KS, MO, & CO, and have been licensed in Montana since 1984. Co-owner of Foster Funeral Homes since 1999.

Our boys, Zachary & Zane live in New Orleans. Zachary is a classically trained baker who trained in New Orleans before opening his own bakery on Canal Street. Zane moved there during Covid to help his brother as Earlham College where he was getting ready for grad school and coaching football closed its football program. He currently splits his time between St Ignatius & New Orleans.

My hobbies include collecting cars, watching college athletics, gardening, running my hobby farm and spending time with my family.

I am a dedicated public servant running for Montana House District 15. My goal is to represent the community and work towards a better future for all.

My Hopes

As someone who grew up in a conservative republican environment, I can honestly say that it influenced me.

This is the third time I have run for a state office. The first time I ran against Joe Reid and lost in the primary. I did not put much effort into the run as after filing my candidacy I found out I filed in the wrong district and It was too late to withdraw. I am a firm believer that one should live in their district and only those that live there should have a vote.

The second time, I filed at the last moment won my primary by a few votes and won the general on first count. Later when the contested votes were counted from the Blackfeet side of HD15 I had lost to Marvin Weatherwax by a 50.5% to 49.5% . However, having this happen to me was a good thing as it gave me the opportunity see how the process works and what is expected when you get to Helena. Basically, this run gave me an awareness to realize what was really involved when you run for office.

This time is my third time and I can say that I am running for a reason. It is because I believe in accountability and believe that it is time to have more fiscal conservatives in our representation. In much the same manner as Ronald Reagan, one of the last true fiscal conservatives, I believe in smaller government, lower taxes, less services and letting free enterprise be our hallmarks. I am also about using some common sense.

But as I mentioned before, I found out what is expected when you go to Helena, and one of them is the politicians expect you to have seven bills or proposals ready as there is a small time to introduce bills and get organized and the Republicans try to do this before you are even sworn in and the contested votes are counted. Because of this I have some general l thoughts about potential bills.

The ones I would like to introduce are …

1. An accountability bill where if any politician misses more that ten days of session, he/she is barred from running for office for the next two terms.

2. All State/County/Local elections in the State of Montana may only be voted on by residents of the locality and all candidates must reside in the locality being voted on.

e.g. Currently County Commissioners are elected by all the county residents. This should be changed to only residents of the Commissioner’s Home District. This way the representative is more apt to be looking out for their voters.

3. As a border state we should adopt the practice of other states where your driver’s license can act as a passport to Canada & Mexico, this would be done with a chip and would replace the real ID.

4. As the husband of a transplant recipient, I would like to see this state adopt rules to add to the Uniform Donation Act. These rules would consist of two proposals. 1 If a hospital participates in the program that they need a morgue/cooler to store the deceased in. and 2 That when the patient checks in they provide a signature allowing donation or denying it. If that can’t be done then the current criteria would be followed.

5. As a mortician who has seen the results of failure do paperwork, I would like to see the manner that the death certificate is filed be changed to one that is more accommodating to the grieving families. The DC should be initiated by the certifier (Dr or Coroner) within 72 hours from time of death. This should be mandatory and on the electronic system that has existed since 2002. The certificate should then be sent to County Registrar in the county of death and the registrar would then release the certificate to the mortician for completion. Currently many families are unable to handle legal work, access their safety deposit box or pay their bills because the bank freezes accounts after a person's death because of the need for a DC.

6. As a tax payer their needs to be expansion of the welfare system (SNAP & Medicaid). Yes, as a Republican this is probably something you would think of as intolerable but remember that I am about accountability and as a Christian we need to help the less fortunate.

What I am suggesting is that in exchange for expanded benefits there are restrictions as to what the recipient may use their discretionary funds for. ( e.g. Purchasing of vices that lead to health problems. ) To police this a Montana ID or driver’s license must be presented when purchasing these products on a SNAP card. The ID License number is typed into a data base and then from that source the sale could proceed. Non residents do not have to do this nor do those who are at a bar or restaurant. This could also be applied to gambling if desired.

As for medical, those with a chronic or a possible terminal medical condition eligibility should not have income requirements. By doing this it now leaves them employable and their spouse can now be employed. Current standards remove the incentive to be productive members of the community because one must be poor for assistance.

7. Lastly, because I believe in the Montana Constitution, I would ask that the State honor the wishes that are laid forth in the Montana Constitution and were reaffirmed in the 2nd Constitutional Convention. More specifically, the Montana Constitution states that there is no control over Indians and their lands.

Federal Indian Policy opened these lands without State input. A study should be made that shows the amount of state funds spent within the boundaries of Reservations and if possible, what the effects of a withdrawal of the services provided by the State would be unless there is a compact or federal obligation to provide services versus the impact of lost tax revenue from residents that pay property tax and income tax but reside within the boundaries of a federal Indian Reservation. Reservations are a federal issue and should be handled in that manner. Treaty rights, sovereignty and the power to enforce rules, regulations and laws ultimately lie within the federal realm not the State