By Darrell Ehrlick and Nicole Girten DAILY MONTANAN
One of the most fervent Montana supporters of election fraud and a longtime legislator was one of the few incumbents to lose on Election Day as power of the Treasure State Legislature remained firmly in Republican control—and GOP control increased, as widely anticipated.
Rep. Brad Tschida, R-Missoula, had been a frequent and vocal supporter of the baseless theory that the 2020 General Election was fraught with fraud, leading to the election of Democrat Joe Biden for U.S. President, despite the fact that Montana’s GOP swept races at a historic clip not seen in nearly a century.
Tschida was upended by Democrat Willis Curdy, whose unofficial tally shows him ahead by 10 percentage points, 55 to 45.
However, Republicans picked up more seats in the state’s Legislature, garnering a supermajority for the first time since 1975, according to an email Wednesday from the Senate Majority.
That was due, in part, to many of the races not being contested. In the Montana Senate, Republicans ran in seven races that were uncontested among the 50 seats. In the House, Republicans had 26 seats that were uncontested, while Democrats had three.
While vote tallies were still unofficial on Wednesday afternoon, it appeared that Republicans in the Legislature would have 103 of the 150 seats. A supermajority is 100.
Between 1975 and 2021, Republicans’ record was 99 seats in the Legislature in 1997 and the Democrats’ biggest total was 97 in 1975, after the Legislature was expanded to 150 seats, according to the email from the Senate Majority.
The record in each chamber was 68 House Republicans in 2011 and 34 Senate Republicans in 1997.
“Voters spoke loudly and clearly that they want Republican lawmakers to build on the historic successes of the last legislative session and they’re excited to get to work,” said Kyle Schmauch, a spokesperson for legislative Republicans, in a press release Wednesday.
He said tax relief and handling Montana’s budget surplus are early priorities that legislative Republicans expect to address during the 68th Legislature.
At a GOP event in Helena in the ballroom of the DoubleTree, locals gathered with candidates to watch the results trickle in throughout the evening, the Secretary of State’s website projected for the room to see.
Bob Leach, a Republican candidate running against Minority Leader Kim Abbott in HD-83, said he loved campaigning and that he had faith in the election system, which wasn’t true with all attendees.
Rose Miller, 57, said she had some hesitation about the results to expect over the course of the evening as she felt “ there’s still some cheating that might be tried.” Since-debunked conspiracies around election integrity spread throughout the country after former President Donald Trump did not accept the results of the 2020 election.
As of Wednesday evening Leach was trailing Democrat Abbott by 18 percentage points.
Public Service Commission
The all Republican Public Service Commission appears to remain that way as Ann Bukacek, a physician, is projected to have beaten Democrat John Repke on the board that has been beset by controversy, including travel expense misuse and internal bickering.
Bukacek had narrowly beaten longtime legislator Derek Skees in a Republican primary but has little experience in the arena of public utilities. She is best known for her conservative stands against COVID-19 and abortion.
Bukacek led by nearly 12,000 votes with 75% of precincts fully reported, for a 56-to-43% margin over Repke.
In one other PSC race, incumbent Republican Randy Pinocci of Sun River, who had no challenger, won re-election with 97% of the vote.