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Last-minute filings mean more contested races

A flurry of last-minute changes has finalized the candidates in local races, giving a broader depth in the elections.

There will be a general election contest for Hill County commissioner, a new primary contest in a House district and a renewed primary in a Senate race, although the number of candidates in most races still does not compare to the statewide and national races.

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With Havre businesswoman Debi Rhines filing as a Republican in the Hill County commissioner race, that office now will have both a Democratic primary and a general election contest.

Hill County farmer Mark Peterson faces Hill County Road and Bridge Department office manager Deborah Walker in the Democratic primary for Hill County commissioner. Commissioner Kathy Bessette is not running for re-election.

In the other Hill County races, incumbent Democrat Dena Tippets is unopposed for clerk of district court, and Hill County Superintendent of Schools Diane McLean is running unopposed as an independent.

What had appeared to be a race with uncontested primaries after one incumbent Senate candidate withdrew his candidacy has a revived Republican primary with the addition of another candidate Monday.

Douglas Stuart of Harlem filed as a candidate Monday in Senate District 17 in Blaine and Hill counties, facing Don Richman, also of Harlem, in the Republican primary.

Chinook Democrat Greg Jergeson is running unopposed in the Democratic primary in that district.

Havre Republican Sen. Craig Tilleman — who was appointed to replace Sen. Rowlie Hutton, R-Havre, after he resigned effective last July — announced over the weekend that he was withdrawing from the race.

Stuart originally had shown interest in taking the place of Hutton, but then withdrew. Tilleman ended up being selected in a split vote by the Hill and Blaine county commissions, with Richman taking second, though he won the top choice of the Blaine and Hill county Republican Central committees with Tilleman their second choice.

Another Harlem resident has joined another race, giving a Democratic primary in the election for House District 32 that stretches from the northeastern corner of Chouteau County through Hill, Blaine, Phillips and Valley counties.

Clarena M. Brockie filed as a candidate in that race, challenging Rep. Tony Belcourt of Box Elder in the Democratic primary. No Republicans filed in that race.

The highest level of interest has come in the commissioner race in Chouteau County, which has four Republicans running to contest an independent candidate in the general election. The winner will take the place of Republican Commissioner Jim O'Hara, a candidate in the race for governor.

The Republican candidates in the race are William K. Courtnage, Robert J. Pasha, Wilson "Bill" C. Zanto, Terry DeBorde and Mary Lou Tweet.

Kenneth Engellant has filed as an independent in that race.

Incumbent Republican Rick Cook is running unopposed for the combined position of Chouteau County clerk of court, superintendent of public schools and county surveyor.

Most other local legislative races also have contested races. In Senate District 16, the massive district that includes HD 32 and House District 31 in Roosevelt County, and includes Rocky Boy's and Fort Belknap Indian reservations and part of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, faces Rep. Frank Smith, D-Poplar, in a rematch of the 2008 race when Windy Boy defeated Smith, the then-incumbent, in both the primary and the general election, when Smith ran as an independent.

While no primary contests are set in the other Hill and Blaine county House districts, the incumbent Republicans are facing Democrat challengers in the general election.

Two-term Rep. Wendy Warburton, R-Havre, faces Democrat Karen Sloan in House District 34 in northern Blaine and Hill counties.

First-term Rep. Kris Hansen, R-Havre, faces Democrat Brenda Skornogoski in the race for the seat in House District 33 from Havre through western Hill County.

In the race for House District 29, which includes eastern Chouteau and Judith Basin and western Fergus counties, incumbent Rep. Ryan Osmundson, R-Buffalo, faces Democratic challenger Todd Lark of Lewistown.

Incumbent Rep. Roy Hollandsworth, R-Brady, is unopposed for re-election to House District 28, which includes western Chouteau, Liberty and northeastern Toole counties.

The other local county races have incumbents running unopposed for re-election, with the candidates who filed Blaine County Commissioner Vic Miller, Blaine County Clerk of Court Kay O'Brien Johnson, both Democrats, and Republican Liberty County Commissioner Larry Hendrickson and Liberty County Clerk of Court Anne Seidlitz Melton, a Democrat.


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