Despite local resident Steve Daines running, race for U.S. House a tossup
By Taylor Anderson, Big Sky Weekly Editorial Assistant
MONTANA – Absentee ballots are out and registered residents are gearing up for the June 5 primaries in Montana.
As Gov. Brian Schweitzer winds down his eight-year stint in office, seven Republicans and two Democrats are lined up in hopes of moving into his job. Leading in the polls are current Attorney General Steve Bullock and former U.S. Rep. Rick Hill. Hill and Bullock were tied in the latest Public Policy Polling from early May, at 39 percent apiece.
But that campaign has been relatively sleepy to come to the spotlight.
Another hotly contested race seeks to fill the spot that U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg will leave to contest Sen. Jon Tester’s seat in the U.S. Senate.
Seven Democrats and three Republicans made the ballot for that race, in which presumptive Republican candidate Steve Daines holds a slight lead as of early May. Daines will face Vincent Melkus and Eric Brosten in that election.
Montana senator Kim Gillan is the tossup Democratic choice, leading the late April poll with 21 percent to the next-closest contender, Diane Smith, at 13 percent.
That race is still a tossup, as 41 percent of voters don’t yet know who they’ll vote for on the ballot. Just 27 percent of Montanans polled know who Daines is, 23 percent know Gillan and 21 percent know Wilmer.
Republican candidate Tim Fox recently received more than $108,000 from the Washington, D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee, a rare move that led fellow GOP contender Jim Shockley to cry foul. Fox ran for attorney general in 2008, gathering 47 percent of the vote but losing to Bullock.
Gallatin County residents will vote for a Republican candidate for sheriff. Incumbent Brian Gootkin was elected during the last vote and seeks reelection. He will have to beat Republicans Jeff Wade and Mike Wick to make it to the general election in November. Josh Jones is the lone Democratic candidate.
Four Republican candidates are running for Public Service Commissioner for District No. 3, which includes Gallatin and Madison counties, and reaches from Beaverhead County in the west to Musselshell County in the east. James Brown, Roger Koopman, Edward McCrone and Michael More will all seek to fill incumbent Democrat John Vincent’s seat, while Mark Sweeney and Vincent are the Democratic candidates for that spot.
Paul Scott Sannes is the only Democrat candidate for Gallatin County District No. 3 county commissioner. He will face in November the winner between incumbent Steve White and challenger Peter Rothing.
In Madison County, current commissioner Dave Schulz will seek reelection over challenger Ken Yecny. Because the election is nonpartisan and only two candidates are running, there won’t be a primary for that race.
In a miscellaneous Public Policy poll, 24 percent of Montanans consider themselves liberal or somewhat liberal, whereas 44 percent consider themselves some degree of conservative. 32 percent are moderates.
That finding closely matches up with party lines, with 30 percent Democrat, 33 percent Republican and 37 percent Independent.
The poll found that if Schweitzer were to lay low a few years and decide to challenge Sen. Max Baucus for his seat, 48 percent of 332 polled Democratic primary voters said they would vote for the former governor over the 34-year senate veteran, who received just 37 percent.
If Schweitzer were to make a run for president in 2016, 42 percent of those polled said they would vote for him over a generic Republican contender and 38 percent would vote for the Republican.