By BOB ANEZ/AP Political Writer
HELENA - State Superintendent of Public Instruction Linda McCulloch and Supreme Court Justice John Warner led the roster of candidates filing for the 2004 election Monday, the opening day for contenders to sign up for the year's political races.
McCulloch, a Democrat running for her second term, and Warner, seeking election to the high court after being appointed justice a year ago, were the only statewide candidates filing. They were joined by 41 legislative hopefuls, including 23 incumbents.
Also filing was Debbie Shea, a Democratic state senator running for the District 3 seat on the Public Service Commission. Shea is prevented from seeking re-election to the Senate because of term limits.
That PSC seat is held by Democrat Bob Rowe, who also is blocked from re-election by term limits.
The legislative incumbents filing Monday were 12 Democrats and 11 Republicans. Much of the Great Falls delegation in the House was on that list: Democrats Brennan Ryan, Bill Wilson, John Parker and Kathleen Galvin-Halcro, and Republican Joe McKenney.
Among others paying their $15 fee was Rollins Republican Janna Taylor, wife of state Sen. Mike Taylor, an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2002. She is running for House District 11. Rep. Joe Balyeat, R-Bozeman, filed for the Senate District 34 seat and his brother, Missoula Republican John Balyeat, filed in House District 100.
Three other House members, Democrats Kim Gillan of Billings and Larry Cyr of Butte and Republican John Brueggeman of Polson, filed in Senate races.
In paying her $804.25 filing fee, McCulloch stressed a continued emphasis on promoting reading skills and improving high school graduation rates among American Indian students.
With the state in the midst of a lawsuit over adequacy of education funding, McCulloch said her view is that Montana's schools need enough money to meet state accreditation standards and provide the variety of programs needed for both students with learning problems and those considered gifted.
Asked how much more money that would require, she said a ''good starting point'' would be the $170 million estimated in a 2002 study by a coalition of education groups, many of which are behind the funding suit under way in District Court here.
McCulloch is a former legislator and school librarian from Bonner.
Warner, a former district judge from Havre, was appointed by Gov. Judy Martz to replace Justice Terry Trieweiler when he decided to resign midway through his eight-year term. Warner does not yet have an opponent in the nonpartisan race.