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Election 2020: The EBS Guide

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Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3 and it’s coming up fast. One presidential debate has taken place, two more are scheduled (Oct. 15 and Oct. 22), and tensions are running high. Several voting options are available this year, due to the pandemic: early voting, which runs from Oct. 5 to Nov. 2, mail-in voting and of course absentee voting.  

Whatever your preferred method, here’s a quick recap of what will appear on the Gallatin County ballot for this 2020 election. – The Editors


The Montana gubernatorial race features Mike Cooney (D), Greg Gianforte (R), and Lyman Bishop (L). Incumbent governor Steve Bullock (D) is term-limited and ineligible to run for re-election but has chosen to run for the U.S. Senate.

Mike Cooney grew up in Butte, Montana, and worked at his family’s business, Cooney Food Brokerage, for eight years before graduating from Montana State University and then serving in the Montana House of Representatives. Cooney served three terms as Secretary of State for Montana from 1989-2001. He served in the Montana State Senate and presided as president of the Senate from 2007-2009. Since 2016, Cooney has served as lieutenant governor alongside Gov. Steve Bullock. 

Mike Cooney

Mike Cooney grew up in Butte, Montana, and worked at his family’s business, Cooney Food Brokerage, for eight years before graduating from Montana State University and then serving in the Montana House of Representatives. Cooney served three terms as Secretary of State for Montana from 1989-2001. He served in the Montana State Senate and presided as president of the Senate from 2007-2009. Since 2016, Cooney has served as lieutenant governor alongside Gov. Steve Bullock. 

Key aspects of Cooney’s platform:

  • Lowering the cost of healthcare and expanding access to Medicaid
  • Developing a coronavirus response plan—the Keep Montana Working Plan—which he says will create jobs, protect businesses and strengthen Montana’s economy
  • Protecting access to public lands with the Protecting the Last Best Place Plan 

Greg Gianforte

Greg Gianforte was a businessman who launched five companies before being elected to Montana Congress as Representative of Montana’s at-large congressional district bin 2017. He serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce as well as subcommittees on communications and technology, consumer protection and commerce and health. His political priorities include making Montanan’s voices heard in Washington and protecting the Montana way of life, according to his campaign website. He lives in Bozeman, Montana. 

Key aspects of Gianforte’s platform:

  • Reduce litigation against forest management projects and modernize the Endangered Species Act
  • Lower taxes, reduce business regulations and strengthen the economy
  • Clean up Washington with his Payment Integrity Information Act of 2019, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is intended to curb wasteful government spending

Lyman Bishop

Lyman Bishop lives in Kalispell, Montana, with his family and is the owner of Hoplite Armor, a company that produces body armor for soldiers. Bishop’s campaign website says he is outspoken in favor of constitutional rights and libertarian ideals. 

Key aspects of Bishop’s platform:

  • Protect Second Amendment rights for Montanans and enact Constitutional Carry Laws
  • Improve education for Montana’s children by building new schools and investing in and developing existing schools
  • Help Montana become more energy independent by developing hydroelectric dams in the state 

U.S. Senate

The U.S. Senate race is between incumbent Steve Daines (R) and Steve Bullock (D). Daines’s current term ends Jan. 3, 2021. Sen. Jon Tester (D) still holds office and has since 2007. Tester’s current term ends Jan. 3, 2025. As of press time on Oct. 7, polls are showing a hotly contested race, and one that may have implications as to whether Republicans maintain control of the Senate.

Steve Bullock

Steve Bullock is currently the governor of Montana and has been since 2013. Bullock was born and raised in Helena, Montana, and served as Attorney General while working to protect access to public lands. As governor, Bullock has worked to provide quality education to Montana students, improve healthcare and fight for campaign finance reform. Now, his senatorial campaign focuses on several key points. Here are a few.

Key aspects of Bullock’s platform

  • Make affordable healthcare widely available by building on successes of the Affordable Care Act
  • Create more jobs in Montana by supporting local businesses and expanding apprenticeships and job training
  • Address climate change by investing in clean energy and creating jobs in fields related to climate change

Steve Daines

Steve Daines has been serving in the U.S. Senate since 2014. He is a fifth generation Montanan and currently lives in Bozeman, Montana. Daines also served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2012-2014. He has already worked for Montanans in the Senate but emphasizes there’s work still to come. 

Key aspects of Daines’s platform

  • Create jobs in Montana and get the economy working again for small businesses
  • Protect Second Amendment rights and national security
  • Cut government spending and federal overreach

U.S. House of Representatives

Matt Rosendale (R) and Kathleen Williams (D) are running for a spot in the U.S. House of Representatives. Incumbent Greg Gianforte is not seeking reelection, choosing instead to run for governor and leaving the seat open.  

Kathleen Williams

Kathleen Williams ran against Gianforte in 2018 and lost by the narrowest margin since 2000. She has worked for nearly four decades in natural resources and public service.  She is the Associate Director at the Western Landowners Alliance, serving as a resource on policy issues and monitoring 14 million acres of privately held land. 

Key aspects of Williams’s platform

  • Provide all citizens with affordable, quality healthcare
  • Boost Montana’s economy by bringing better jobs to the state and helping farmers and ranchers keep their land
  • Protect public lands in Montana and fight for clean air and water

Matt Rosendale

Matt Rosendale first became involved in politics in 2010 when his neighbors recruited him to run for the Montana Legislature. In 2014, he was chosen by his colleagues in the State Senate to be the Majority Leader. Rosendale currently serves as State Auditor and lives on his ranch in Glendive, Montana.

Key aspects of Rosendale’s platform

  • Stand with veterans and provide them with proper healthcare
  • Protect and expand access to public lands and prevent federal transfer of public lands
  • Secure the U.S. border by supporting President Trump, deporting criminals and ending sanctuary cities

Attorney General

Raph Graybill (D) and Austin Knudsen (R) are competing for the position of Montana Attorney General within the Montana Department of Justice. The current Attorney General is Tim Fox who entered the 2020 gubernatorial race and was eliminated in the June 2, 2020 primary.  

Austin Knudsen

Austin Knudsen is a fifth-generation Montanan who grew up on his family’s farm outside Culbertson.  Previously, he served two terms as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. He also spent nearly a decade in private practice before being elected Roosevelt County Attorney. 

Key aspects of Knudsen’s platform

  • Protect Montanans’ Second Amendment rights
  • Safeguard private property rights
  • Reduce excessive government spending

Raph Graybill

Raph Graybill serves as Chief Legal Counsel to Gov. Bullock. He is a fifth-generation Montanan from Great Falls, Montana, and worked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and in private practice as a lawyer for those affected by unfair business practices. Graybill is running for Attorney General to be a watchdog for Montanans’ rights, he says. 

Key aspects of Graybill’s platform

  • Lower prescription drug prices and defend those with pre-existing conditions
  • Defend public lands and public access
  • Stand up for the rights of workers and Montana’s middle class

Secretary of State

Sen. Bryce Bennett (D) and Deputy Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen (R) are running for Montana Secretary of State. Corey Stapleton, the current Secretary of State, ran for a spot in the U.S. House to represent Montana’s at-large Congressional District but lost in the Republican primary on June 2.

Christi Jacobsen

Christi Jacobsen is a native Montanan who grew up in Helena. She was educated at Carroll College and University of Montana and has been working in her current role to consolidate the office of Secretary of State and eliminate wasteful government spending. 

Key aspects of Jacobsen’s platform

  • Protect the current U.S. election system and prevent centralization
  • Ensure a secure voting process by requiring a valid ID
  • Support responsible agricultural and natural resource development

Bryce Bennett

Bryce Bennett is a fifth-generation Montanan who grew up in Hysham. He is a state senator who says he has worked across the aisle to defend public lands. When dark money groups tried to buy Montana elections, Bennett says he worked with Democrats and Republicans to pass a law and stop them. He also founded the Montana Privacy Caucus, a bipartisan group of legislators that has passed laws to protect individuals’ private data. 

Key aspects of Bennett’s platform

  • Make the Secretary of State’s office accessible for small business owners so they can access the help and information they need
  • Protect public lands and maintain open access by penalizing those who try to put up gates and barbed wire
  • Encourage bipartisan leadership and get legislators to work together to obtain funding and fix issues

House of Representatives, District 64

Dr. Jane Gillette (R), Brian Popiel (D) and Doug Campbell (L) are running to replace term-limited Kerry White (R) and represent District 64 in the Montana House of Representatives.  Gillette squeaked by with a win over Randy Chamberlin (R) in the primary election by 40 votes.  District 64 encompasses the area from Four Corners south to West Yellowstone and includes Big Sky.

Jane Gillette

Dr. Jane Gillette is a dentist who practiced at the Air Force Base in Great Falls. She worked for a time at Community Health Partners in Bozeman before starting her own private dental practice there. Gillette has since moved to working in nursing homes and has also started a nonprofit called Sprout Oral Health in Bozeman. She hopes to bring her experience as a small business owner to Helena.  

Key aspects of Gillette’s platform

  • Improve the quality of healthcare in Montana and lower costs
  • Use Montanans’ tax dollars wisely and reduce wasteful spending
  • Protect public lands and ensure they remain in public hands

Brian Popiel

Brian Popiel is a Montana native born in Glendive. He started his own construction business after college which has since expanded into recycling construction materials.  Now, Popiel focuses on building cost-effective and energy-efficient homes in Bozeman. He’s been involved with the Southwest Montana Building Industry Association and as a part of this organization, has advocated for green building, education of building trades and affordable housing. He currently lives in Bozeman.

Key aspects of Popiel’s platform

  • Address the shortage of affordable housing in Montana through investment in infrastructure and growing high paying jobs
  • Defend the Affordable Care Act and expand Medicaid
  • Prioritize education and ensure schools can hire and retain great teachers

Doug Campbell

Doug Campbell was born and raised in Bozeman. After college, he spent time working in computer and engineering jobs and moving around the U.S. In 2010, Campbell moved back to Bozeman and now says he’s the independent representation that Montana needs. 

Key aspects of Popiel’s platform

  • Protect public lands and balance the needs of agriculture with tourism and slowly implement policy changes so as not to adversely affect local economies
  • Balance the state budget 
  • Reign in the size of the federal government by ensuring that Montana state government holds its ground and solves issues at the local and state level

Gallatin County Commission

Commissioner Don Seifert (R) is not seeking reelection, opening up a vacant seat that two candidates are aiming to fill. Carter Atkinson (R) and Rep. Zach Brown (D) are eyeing the vacancy and each has his own plan. Gallatin County’s three commissioners serve staggered six-year terms. Remaining commissioners Scott MacFarlane (D) and Joe Skinner (R) are not up for reelection this year.

Carter Atkinson

Carter Atkinson, an educational travel representative for Billings-based student travel company Global Travel Alliance, moved to Bozeman seven years ago from California. He fills in as a substitute teacher on occasion for the Bozeman School District. Atkinson has said he would focus on managing burgeoning development between Bozeman, Four Corners and Belgrade, and supported tax increases to support Gallatin County Search and Rescue and the 911 Dispatch Center.

Key aspects of Atkinson’s platform

  • Support the struggling Gallatin Rest Home through the currently existing county budget
  • Find options for replacing the Law and Justice Center, a bond issue that has failed twice
  • Support tourism while also recognizing the importance of farming and ranching to the area economy

Zach Brown

Rep. Zach Brown has represented southwest Bozeman in House District 63 for three terms since 2015, focusing on criminal justice reform. Born and raised in Bozeman, Brown earned a degree in environmental studies and climate change studies from Montana State University in 2013. He says he’s running for the open commissioner seat in Gallatin County to advocate for fiscal responsibility, sustainable growth and cooperation between urban and rural areas of the county.

Key aspects of Brown’s platform

  • Aid in supporting pretrial diversion addiction treatment and drug treatment courts as cheaper alternatives to incarceration
  • Lobby for an additional district court judge
  • Support infrastructure needs for small but quickly growing areas such as Big Sky and West Yellowstone

Gallatin County ballot measures 

LR-130 Firearms: Proposes to remove local government authority to regulate the carrying of concealed weapons.

C-46 Direct Democracy: Would change language in the Montana Constitution to match existing signature distribution requirements for initiated constitutional amendments.

C-47 Direct Democracy: Proposes to amend language in the Constitution to match existing requirements for initiated state statutes and veto referendums.

CI-118 Marijuana: Authorizes the Legislature or a citizen initiative to establish a minimum legal age for the possession, use and purchase of marijuana.  

I-190 Marijuana: Would legalize the possession and use of marijuana for those over 21 and impose a 20 percent sales tax on marijuana.

Mail-in voting for Gallatin and Madison counties

Gallatin County:

  • Ballots mailed Oct. 9 to all active, registered voters
  • Two options to return
    • Mail to County Election Office in Bozeman
    • Drop off at collection point in the Big Sky Post Office or at the County Election Office 
  • Oct. 27: Recommended date to return ballots by mail

Madison County:

  • Ballots mailed Oct. 9 to all active, registered voters
  • Two options to return
    • Drive to Virginia City and drop off ballot at the Election Office
    • Mail to the County Election Office in Virginia City 
  • Oct. 27: Recommended date to return ballots by mail

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