Fearless. Whenever anyone asks me about Lela, this is how I start. Lela Graham is fearless. Her campaign literature will tell you she’s a veteran, but beyond that mere mention is a history of badassery. The jumping out of planes 47 times, fighting oversea, Military Intelligence Corps kind of badassery. She served from 1996 – 2002. But with those adrenaline-inducing missions comes a fair amount of pain, heartache and loss, the kind that can alter who we are at our very core.
Resilient. That’s the second word I use to describe Lela. After a long and successful military career, Lela faced a struggle that we in Great Falls know far too well- substance abuse. Around 1 in 10 veterans struggle with substance abuse. Ever one to beat the odds, Lela celebrates six years of recovery this month. Perhaps scarier than facing enemy forces and even our own demons, Graham has made substance use and recovery the platform of her campaign. She’s knocked thousands of doors in her district and has told every voter about her plans to provide substance use treatment to people in Great Falls and across Montana. Graham is also the only Jewish candidate in Great Falls. Soon after Lela kicked off her door-knocking campaign, her district was inundated with anti-Semitic fliers. Tough as ever, Lela remained undaunted by the hate speech and has since knocked every door in her district.
Originally from Great Falls, Lela’s career took her all over the world. When she returned home to Great Falls, Graham immediately jumped into community volunteer work. Since then, Lela has become a Master Trainer for Narcan (a medication that saves lives by reversing the effects of opioid overdose.) She’s starting a nonprofit to help others struggling with substance use, and she’s somehow found time to run against one of Great Falls’ most “untouchable” candidates, Ed Buttrey. However, Buttrey’s harsh anti-choice views may prove too radical for even his own base this time around. In contrast, Lela has vocally supported bodily autonomy, helping organize multiple pro-choice events throughout the summer.
Lela Graham is a profile in patriotism, resilience, and bravery. We can think of no one better to serve Great Falls.