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Legislative seats attract many candidates

With a flurry of filings this week - many on Thursday's deadline - what looked like a quiet legislative election season with half the seats in north-central Montana uncontested has turned into a hot race.

Before Wednesday, only three of six House districts and one of two Senate districts up for election had any competition for the general election in November. One of those House districts had its first filings on Monday.

By the close of Thursday's filing deadline, Republican and Democratic candidates had filed in all but one Senate district, and one House district went from having one unopposed candidate to having primary races in both parties.

All of the candidates are running in new districts, as a result of the legislative redistricting that followed the 2000 census.

Rep. Frank Smith, D-Poplar, who represented HD 98 in Roosevelt and Sheridan counties, is running unopposed in new SD 16 in Hill, Blaine, Phillips, Valley and Roosevelt counties. The district includes the Rocky Boy and Fort Belknap reservations and part of the Fort Peck reservation.

An area that includes part of the district formerly represented by Sen. Ed Butcher, R-Winifred, including Butcher's home, is now represented by Senate Minority Leader Jon Tester, D-Big Sandy, who is not up for re-election this year. As a result, Butcher is running for the seat in the new HD 29, which covers Judith Basin County, the northwestern half of Fergus County and the southeastern half of Chouteau County.

Republican Scott Seilstad of Denton filed Wednesday as a candidate in that district, and Democrats Oscar Cantu of Winifred and Hugo Tureck of Coffee Creek filed as candidates Thursday.

Four candidates filed Monday in HD 35, which includes the northern parts of Phillips and Valley counties.

George Knudsen and Frank Piocos, both of Malta, and Wayne Stahl of Saco will face each other in the Republican primary. Kelly Donovan of Larslan is the sole Democrat running in the district.

In HD 28, the candidates face no competition in the primary. In the general election, Rep. John Witt, R-Carter, will face Democrat Garvey Wood of Loma, who filed Thursday. HD 28 includes Liberty County, most of Toole County and the northwest half of Chouteau County, including Big Sandy.

In the new HD 33, which contains most of western Hill County and part of Havre, Rep. Bob Bergren, D-Havre, picked up some opposition when Republican Kenneth Wilson of Havre filed Thursday. Neither candidate faces opposition in the primary.

Rep. John Musgrove, D-Havre, will face Alan Brekke, a Republican from Harlem, in HD 34. The district includes part of Havre, the northeastern part of Hill County and Blaine County north of U.S. Highway 2, including Harlem, Chinook, Turner, Hogeland. Both candidates filed in January.

In the new HD 32, which includes parts of Hill, Blaine, Phillips and Valley counties, one-term incumbent Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, faces two-term incumbent Rep. Jeffrey Pattison, R-Glasgow, in the general election. Neither faces opposition in the primary.

The district includes the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation.

Along with Tester, two other senators assigned to new districts in the area are not up for re-election. Sen. Jerry Black, R-Shelby, represents SD 16, which includes Liberty County and parts of Toole, Pondera, Glacier and Chouteau counties.

Sen. Ken "Kim" Hansen, D-Harlem, represents SD 17, which covers Blaine County north of Highway 2 and most of Hill County, excluding the southeastern corner.


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