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Montana election battles heat up

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Primary election day is June 3

By Joseph T. O’Connor Explore Big Sky Senior Editor

U.S. midterm elections are looming, and Montana is a pivotal state where Republicans could pick up a seat to take control of the Senate. The state primaries are on June 3.

Three Democratic candidates and three Republicans are competing in their respective primaries; a Libertarian and an Independent have also stepped up to the plate.

John Walsh is the incumbent tapped to temporarily replace Max Baucus, after the six-term Senator and former Finance Committee chairman was confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to China on Feb. 6. The Montana Democratic Party endorsed Walsh, 53, in March, to the objections of the other two candidates, John Bohlinger and Dirk Adams.

Bohlinger, 78, a Republican-turned Democrat and former Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s lieutenant governor, hopes his strong stance supporting campaign finance reform will sway voters in the primaries.

Rancher and attorney Dirk Adams is a newcomer to the political sphere. While Adams, 62, is the only candidate to oppose approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, he’s running on a platform he says is middle of the road, supporting Montanans’ rights to smaller government.

Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) leads the Republican field for the Senate seat. Daines, 51, is a co-sponsor of the Electricity Security and Affordability Act, a bill that aims to overturn the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recently proposed carbon emissions limits on new coal-fired poser plants. The bill passed the House in March and is now in the hands of the Senate.

Daines also plans to reduce government regulations on small businesses and pledges to fight for policies that encourage job creation. In the most recent Gallup poll, conducted in March, Daines led Walsh by 14 percentage points.

Champ Edmunds, a 50-year-old mortgage consultant from Missoula and a current member of the Montana Legislature, is challenging Daines for the most conservative candidate in the race. He wants a full repeal of Obama’s Affordable Care Act and would like to dismantle both the EPA and the federal departments of education and energy.

Susan Cundiff, who moved from Virginia to Montana in 2002, is the only woman in the race for the Senate seat. Cundiff, 36, is an assistant at Missoula’s School of Business Administration and supports an increase in U.S. adoption numbers, as well as cuts in government spending.

Two other candidates are also seeking the seat, which Walsh will vacate in January, if he doesn’t win it back. Roger Roots, a Libertarian lawyer from Livingston, looks to preserve Montana parks and heritage, and wants to allow national forests and parks to pay for themselves through entrance fees.

Independent candidate Sam Rankin, who owns a real estate firm in Billings, is not declaring his stance on issues but hopes to win the June 3 primary on the basis that he’s different enough from the traditional Democrats and Republican candidates.

Voters that have missed the May 6 registration deadline can register late at their respective county election offices up to the time polls close on Election Day.

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