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Martz undecided on seeking second gubernatorial term


HELENA (AP) - Gov. Judy Martz hasn't decided yet if she will seek a second term in office, but will probably make an announcement before June's state GOP convention, said Chuck Butler, her communications director.

Martz's approval rating had been hovering at around 25 percent before the legislative session, but Butler said the governor has been getting positive feedback from Republicans as she tours the state.

''People are saying, 'Governor, despite what people may have had to say about the legislative session, you've done a darn good job, and if you want to run for re-election, we're behind you,''' he said. ''People are saying it will be another tough race, if (she) decides to run, but that the last one was probably as tough as any one gets.''

Martz came from behind to squeak past Democrat Mark O'Keefe in the 2000 election, winning with 51 percent of the vote.

Montana Republicans hold their annual convention June 27-28 in Missoula. The convention is often a site for campaign announcements.

''The governor is looking at somewhere around that time frame for making a decision on her political future and announcing it,'' Butler said.

Already two major party candidates have declared they want to unseat Martz, and others are waiting until the governor announces what she is going to do.

Democrat Brian Schweitzer of Whitefish, who lost a close race to U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns in 2000, and Republican Tom Keating, a former longtime Billings legislator who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant

governor in 2000, have announced candidacies.

Also, Robert Kelleher, a Butte lawyer and a state Constitutional Convention delegate, announced that he will run but didn't say with which party.

If Martz does step aside, there are plenty of Republicans who have said they would consider running, including Lt. Gov. Karl Ohs, Senate

Majority Leader Fred Thomas, House Speaker Doug Mood and Republican Party Chairman Ken Miller.

U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg shot down rumors that he was considering a run at the office, saying that he likes being the state's congressman.

Former congressman Rick Hill and current Secretary of State Bob Brown have said they have not ruled out a run at the office.

Any Democrats who decide to run will have to battle Schweitzer on the primary and the $250,000 he has already raised.

Attorney General Mike McGrath said he won't make a final decision until this fall, but he could also choose to run again for his current office.

Other Democrats who said they're mulling a possible gubernatorial run include O'Keefe and Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy.

Schweitzer, who already has a campaign office in Whitefish, talks confidently about winning.

''If you're receiving your mail and the ZIP code is Helena, you won't be the next governor,'' Schweitzer said. ''This (campaign) is not an old boys' network. This is truly a grass-roots campaign.''

But state Sen. Mike Taylor, R-Proctor, who lost the U.S. Senate race last year to Democrat Max Baucus, said Martz is still in the best position to mount a statewide campaign and raise the money to wage it.

''She has strong support from the Republican strongholds,'' Taylor said. ''I don't know that there will be people who will run against her. She holds all the cards at this point.''


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