MATT GOURAS Associated Press Writer HELENA
Democrat Brian Schweitzer won a second term Tuesday as governor of Montana, defeating Republican state Sen. Roy Brown on a promise of continuing his energy and economic policies. With 51 percent of precincts reporting, Schweitzer was leading 67 percent to Brown's 31 percent. Libertarian candidate Stan Jones was drawing 2 percent of the vote. Schweitzer, whose national profile soared following a widely praised speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, campaigned on what he called a proven record of economic successes. "This is a referendum," Schweitzer said. "And simply stated, Montana has agreed that we need four more years that guarantees people have access for hunting and fishing and camping. And Montana has agreed ... we have a conservative fiscal management system. And Montana has agreed we have invested in education." Schweitzer promised to reach out to those who had voted for Brown. "I will be their governor, too," he said. Brown said he was proud of the race he had run against Schweitzer, a popular incumbent. "This is a critical office for the state of Montana, and I feel strongly that Montanans needed to have a clear alternative in this race," Brown said in a statement. "I've been overwhelmed by the tens of thousands of Montana families that rallied to join our cause, fighting for lower taxes, a stronger economy and responsible development of our natural resources." In making his case for re-election, Schweitzer touted increases in oil and coal production, job creation, homeownEr rebates and a freeze on college tuition. "I think he's done a good job for the state," said voter Rita Lasko, 59, of Helena. "He seems to be well respected throughout the West." Schweitzer emphasized his efforts on behalf of Montana to oppose implementation of federal REAL ID requirements. A Schweitzer campaign ad even featured the governor firing a shotgun at clay pigeons branded with a federal license. The Democratic governor an avid supporter of gun rights received the backing of the National Rifle Association, although he was criticized by the group after he made comments in support of Barack Obama. Brown, who frequently clashed with the governor during past legislative sessions, challenged Schweitzer's record and argued Republican policies in place before Schweitzer took office were the real reason for the state's economic gains. Brown, a former small oil company owner, was often heard on the campaign trail saying he would do better than Schweitzer when it comes to boosting oil and coal production. The two frequently sparred, and the tone of the campaign was at times contentious. Brown and the Republicans labeled Schweitzer a bully and pointed to an out-ofstate speech in which the governor suggested to a group of trial lawyers that he tampered with the 2006 congressional race in Montana. Schweitzer quickly apologized for the speech and said it had been a joke. Known for his boisterous style, Schweitzer appeared subdued after the controversy and promised that he was "out of the joke business." Helena voter Kirk Nelson, 54, said he picked Brown because he didn't think Schweitzer had done a good job. "I didn't like some of the negative things I had read about him," Nelson said. Jones ran on a platform of reducing government and taxes.