HELENA — Former Secretary of State Brad Johnson is among the applicants leading lawmakers sent to the governor Tuesday to consider as the next state political practices commissioner.
The governor can choose from those names, or pick someone else altogether to replace current commissioner Dennis Unsworth, whose six-year term expires at the end of the year.
A panel of two Republicans and two Democrats decided that rather than unanimously agree to a group of candidates they would instead each select one name for the governor to consider. In addition to Johnson, the recommended applicants included a former corporate lawyer, a former staffer for U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and a graduating law student.
Lost PSC bid after DUI arrest
Johnson, who lost a re-election bid in 2008 and also lost a bid this year for the Republican nomination for the Public Service Commission after a drunken driving charge, was chosen by House Republican Leader Scott Sales.
Sales, who is leaving the Legislature at the end of they year, said Johnson has the necessary experience for the post.
Lawmakers on the panel, who said they had little time to look over what they described as an impressive list of 17 applicants, noted the process may not mean much since the governor can choose anyone he wants despite their recommendations.
Outgoing Senate President Bob Story said he was impressed by the resume of former corporate lawyer and prosecutor Edwin Jonas, now a ranch owner. Court documents from several years ago show a contentious divorce case led to an ethics hearing in New Jersey and the suspension of his law license in several states.
Jonas said in his application that he is now retired from the practice of law.
Bergren backs ex-Tester staffer
Also recommended was Jennifer Hensley of Butte, who has been a staffer for U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and been involved in several initiative campaigns. Outgoing House Speaker Bob Bergren. D-Havre, said Hensley, who is married to Democratic state Sen. Steve Gallus of Butte, would be good at the job despite partisan ties.
Jaime MacNaughton of Helena, who said in her application she is finishing law school at the University of Idaho this month, was picked by Senate Democratic leader Carol Williams of Missoula.
Williams said she has never met MacNaughton, but was impressed by a background that doesn't involve much politics and thinks it would be an advantage to have a lawyer in the post since contested cases before the commissioner can end up in court.
The governor has a month after Unsworth's departure to pick a successor. That choice faces confirmation in the state Senate.