Republican state Sen. Al Olszewski on Wednesday announced his candidacy for governor of Montana in 2020, joining a field that includes two statewide elected officials.

The orthopedic surgeon from Kalispell said he wants to better the relationship between the governor’s office and lawmakers, make health care more affordable and improve access to public lands.

Legislators are tolerated by the governor’s administration during 90-day legislative sessions every other year and otherwise ignored, he said.

“In order for us to really conquer the problems and the crises of our state, we need to reset government and our relationship between the governor’s office and the Legislature,” Olszewski said.

If lawmakers and the governor’s office can work together, Olszewski said, the state can better address opioid addiction, the state’s high suicide rate, mental health issues and expensive health care.

“If we treat government like our own family, use common sense and understand that we all want what’s best for Montana — we just disagree on how to get there — and if we can get back to that basic premise, we’ve just solved 90 percent of the problem,” he said.

Attorney General Tim Fox and Secretary of State Corey Stapleton have also announced they are seeking the Republican nomination for governor.

Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock is prevented by term limits from seeking re-election. No Democratic candidates have emerged yet.

Montana Democratic Party Executive Director Monica Lindeen said in a statement criticizing Olszewski that the conservative senator’s values don’t align with the rest of the state.

“As a legislator, he has repeatedly voted against affordable health care for Montanans, voted against protecting Montana’s public lands and tried to put the government between a woman and her doctor,” Lindeen said.

Olszewski, 56, was elected to the state House in 2014 and is serving his second term in the Senate. He ran for the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in 2018, finishing fourth in a four-way race.

When asked how he would distinguish himself from other candidates, Olszewski said he would “make sure this is a positive, constructive campaign” that would transition to a “positive, action-based administration.”

Olszewski was born and raised in Great Falls. He completed his undergraduate work at Carroll College and earned his medical degree from the University of Washington Medical School. He served in the U.S. Air Force as a flight surgeon and trauma surgeon, his campaign said.

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