With record-setting activity in the Montana Secretary of State’s office, and more filings in local clerk and recorder’s offices, candidates have set the initial stage for races in the 2012 election impacting north-central Montana ranging from county seats to federal lawmaking positions, with most of the activity on the state level from Republicans in the first day.
The filings included one filing to take over a seat from a Hill County incumbent who has decided to retire.
Democrat Kathy Bessette, serving her 22nd year this year as Hill County commissioner, said Thursday she will not run for re-election.
“It’s time for new blood, new ideas, ” Bessette said.
Bessette was appointed commissioner in December 1990 to take the term of Commissioner Dan Morris, and has won every election since.
Democrat Mark Peterson, who farms in Hill County north of Havre, filed as a candidate for that office Thursday morning. No one else had filed as a candidate in that race by the end of business Thursday.
Secretary of State Linda McCulloch reports that the candidate filings in her office set a new record. Thursday, the first day of filing, 155 candidates filed in her office, breaking a previous record of first-day filing set in 2010. In that election year, 106 candidates filed on the first day.
“It’s going to be a strong election year, ” McCulloch said in a release Thursday evening. “We had folks lined up at the door this morning waiting to file. I’m looking forward to seeing the same enthusiasm from voters on Election Day. ”
In legislative seats in north-central Montana, Republicans Rep. Kris Hansen of Havre, from House District 33 in Hill County; Rep. Roy Hollandsworth of Brady, from House District 28 in Chouteau, Liberty and Toole counties, and Republican Rep. Ryan Osmundson of Buffalo, from House District 29 in Chouteau, Judith Basin and Fergus counties have filed as candidates for re-election.
No primary or general election opponents had filed in those districts by the end of Thursday.
In Senate District 16 in northern Blaine and Hill counties, a primary and general election contest had been set.
Freshman Sen. Rowlie Hutton, R-Havre, left the seat open when he and his wife, Suzette, moved to Nebraska after he resigned last summer following his first legislative session.
Sen. Craig Tilleman, R-Havre, the second choice of the committee comprising members of the Hill and Blaine county Republican central committees nominating Hutton’s replacement, filed for election Thursday. So did Harlem insurance agent Don Richman, who was the Republican committee’s first choice as Hutton’s replacement, but came in second in the vote by the Blaine and Hill county commissions to appoint the replacement.
Longtime former Sen. Greg Jergeson, D-Chinook, who was elected to the Public Service Commission twice and served eight years as its chair after he termed out as a state senator, also filed in the race for Senate District 17 Thursday.
Jergeson, who also termed out of the PSC, became eligible to run again for the Senate after sitting out the required period of time.
In Senate District 16, which includes parts of Chouteau, Hill, Blaine, Phillips, Valley and Roosevelt counties — including parts of Fort Peck Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy’s Indian reservations — Rep. Frank Smith, D-Poplar, filed as a candidate Thursday.
Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, had not filed for re-election by the end of Thursday.
Windy Boy, who had one term remaining as a state representative in 2008, defeated Smith, the incumbent senator from SD 17, in the primary that year. Windy Boy was unopposed in the 2008 general election.
A call to Windy Boy asking if he planned to run for re-election had not been returned by the Havre Daily News deadline this morning.
In House District 34, including parts of Hill and Blaine counties, no one had filed as a candidate by the end of Thursday.
Rep. Wendy Warburton said this morning she is dealing with the recent death of a family member, and has not filed yet.
No one had filed by the end of day Thursday as a candidate in House District 32, which includes parts of Chouteau, Hill, Blaine, Phillips and Valley counties. Incumbent Rep. Tony Belcourt, D-Box Elder, had not returned a call by the Havre Daily News deadline asking if he planned to file as a candidate for re-election.
In other local races, no one had filed as a candidate for Hill County clerk of court by this morning. Incumbent Democrat Dena Tippets was not available for comment this morning.
A primary contest has developed in Chouteau County for the seat now held by Republican Jim O’Hara, who has declared his intention to run for governor.
Republicans William K. Courtnage and Robert J. Pasha filed Thursday as candidates for that seat.
Republican Rick Cook, clerk of court/superintendent of schools/surveyor for Chouteau County, had filed as a candidate for re-election there.
In Blaine County, Clerk of Court Kay O’Brien Johnson and Commissioner Vic Miller, both Democrats, had filed as candidates for re-election to those offices.
In Liberty County, incumbent Commissioner Larry Hendrickson, a Republican, and Clerk of Court Anne Seidlitz-Melton, a Democrat, had filed as candidates for re-election to their offices.
On the statewide level, by the end of Thursday a set of Republican candidates had filed for office, including one candidate for governor.
Neil Livingstone, a security consultant, filed Thursday as a candidate for governor with retired U. S. Navy Seal Ryan Zinke as his running mate.
No other prospective candidates — including Democratic Attorney General Steve Bullock, former Republican U. S. Rep. Rick Hill, Commissioner O’Hara, Republican Sen. Jeff Essman, former state Sen. Ken Miller and former state Sen. Corey Stapleton — had filed as gubernatorial candidates by the end of Thursday.
Republican candidates had filed for attorney general, secretary of state, state auditor and superintendent of public instruction, with Rep. Jim Shockley, Scott Aspenleider, Derek Skees and Sandy Welch filing for those positions, respectively.
Democrats Pam Bucy and Jesse Laslovich, who have said they will run for attorney general, had not filed by the end of Thursday. Neither had the Democratic incumbents, Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, Auditor Monica Lindeen and Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau.
On the federal level, incumbent U. S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., filed as a candidate for the U. S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Jon Tester. A representative for Tester said the senator will file as a candidate for re-election.
In the race for the House seat now held by Rehberg, the only candidate to file by the end of Thursday was Helena attorney Robert Stutz, a Democrat.
A slew of potential candidates have said they would run for that seat, including Republican Steve Daines, a Bozeman businessman, and Democratic Montana lawmakers Sen. Kim Gillan of Billings and Rep. Franke Wilmer of Bozeman, Democratic Missoula City Council member Dave Strohmaier and Democrat Diane Smith, a Whitefish businesswoman, but none had filed as candidates Thursday.
Hi-Line races at a glance
Hill County commissioner
Democrat Mark Peterson has filed to run, incumbent Democrat Kathy Bessette will not be running.
Blaine County commissioner
Democrat Vic Miller, incumbent has filed. No challengers have filed yet.
House District 32
No candidates yet, incumbent Democrat Tony Belcourt had not filed Thursday.
House District 33
Republican Kris Hansen, incumbent has filed. No challengers have filed yet.
House District 34
No candidates yet, incumbent Republican Wendy Warburton had not filed Thursday.
Senate District 16
Democrat Rep. Frank Smith, incumbent Democrat Jonathan Windy Boy had not filed Thursday.
Senate District 17
Republicans Craig Tilleman, incumbent, and Don Richman, and Democrat Greg Jergeson have filed.