Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Alex Ross 

Three-way race starts in MT Senate race

 

January 12, 2018

Courtesy photo

Russ Tempel

Three candidates - two Republicans, including the incumbent, and one Democrat - filed with the Montana Secretary of State Thursday to run for the state Senate seat in Senate District 14.

The district runs from the Canadian border north of Chester to just outside of Great Falls, including the communities of Havre, Kremlin, Gildford, Hingham, Rudyard, Joplin, Inverness, Chester, Box Elder and Big Sandy.

Incumbent Sen. Russ Tempel, R-Chester, will face Havre contractor Brad Lotton in the primary, and the winner of that will face Bear Paw Development Corp. Executive Director Paul Tuss, the Democratic candidate, in the Nov. 6 general election.

Tempel was chosen by members of the county commissions in the Senate district to fill the seat in late 2016 after state Sen. Kris Hansen, R-Havre, resigned from the Senate to move to Helena and accept a job as chief legal counsel for Montana Auditor Matthew Rosendale.

Tempel said he is running for a full term because when he was considered for the seat, he pledged to run for a full term in 2018.

He said that, through the rest of the year, the state's fiscal situation will be a big concern. State lawmakers made major budget cuts to balance the state's budget during last year's regular legislative session and later in October a special session, to deal with a budget shortfall brought on by overly optimistic budget forecasts, a steep drop in state oil and gas revenue and a historically bad fire season.

The state, he said, is also waiting to see what impact recent federal tax reforms will have on state finances.

He welcomed Lotton's primary challenge, which he said he anticipated.

"Competition is always good, isn't it?" Tempel asked.

Lotton, the owner of Lotton Construction in Havre and a Republican party activist, and Hingham farmer and aviator Darrold Hutchinson were the other candidates under consideration to take Hansen's seat.

Tempel also welcomed the entry of Tuss into the general election. He said he and Tuss worked together during Tempel's 18 years as a Liberty County Commissioner.

"We've worked together on some projects, so we have gotten along real well, so we will see how this turns out," he said.

Lotton said he has been considering a run since he was candidate to finish Hansen's term.

Lotton, the finance director for the Hill County Republican Central Committee said he has been involved in local politics for years and figured it was time to run for office himself.

"I've been one of the guys recruiting candidates to run, and I thought it was time to step up to the plate and do a round myself," he said.

Maintaining a good business climate in Montana so jobs can be created, and ensuring taxes remain at a reasonable rate will be top priorities, he said.

Lotton said that as "business owner and conservative he can bring a different perspective to the seat.

He had only positive things to say about Tempel and Tuss.

"I guess I am very fortunate in this race because I am running against two guys that are actually both very nice guys, both of them are very well-thought of," he said.

Tuss, who has served on a variety of boards and agencies in the state including as chair of the Board of Regents of Higher Eduction, on which he still serves, said in a release that running for office grew out of his work in the area.

"It has been the honor of my life to work in northern Montana for the past 22 years in the area of economic and community development, right alongside other residents of this special part of our state, to build infrastructure, create jobs, expand our tax base and make our communities great places to live, work, raise a family and invest," Tuss said. "Wanting to represent this region in the state Senate is a very logical extension of both my professional work, and my deep commitment to public service."

Tuss was born in Anaconda and raised in the small community of Opportunity and graduated from the University of Montana. He is president of the Montana Economic Developer's Association, as well as a member of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce's Business Development Committee and of the Montana Nonprofit Association's Public Policy Council.

He is also on the Board of Directors of the Montana Actors' Theater, Northern Montana Hospital and the Evergreen Chapter of the ALS Association.

Tuss was married to former Havre City Council member Pam Hillery who died in late 2016 after a public battle with ALS and has two adult children Dolan and Caroline.

In his release, Tuss says he received the endorsements of a diverse and bipartisan group of community leaders: Patrick Constriction President Tom Patrick, Fort Benton Mayor Rick Morris, Havre Mayor Tim Solomon, Cascade County Commissioner Jane Weber, former Chester Mayor Wayne Wardell, former District 4 HRDC Executive Director Karen Thomas, Havre business owner Debi Rhines, former Chouteau County Commissioner Ken Engellant, Hill County farmer and rancher Jeff Hockett, AFSCME Local 2235 President Debra Bradley, former Hill County Commissioner Pat Conway, Great Falls City Commissioner Mary Sheehy Moe, former Havre City Council member Jay Pyette, former state Rep. John Musgrove, D-Havre, and former Hill County Commissioner Kathy Bessette.

"I am deeply honored by the strong and early support I have received from a wide array of community leaders from northern Montana," Tuss said. "Business owners, local government officials, former legislators, union leaders, human service providers, Democrats and Republicans have come together to endorse my candidacy.  It is this level of diversity I want to represent in the state Senate.

"Rural northern Montana needs a strong, consistent voice in Senate District 14 who will stand up for quality public education, solid infrastructure, protecting public lands and keeping rural hospitals open," Tuss continued. "Our next state senator must be responsive to the real needs of rural communities and make sure the state of Montana prioritizes programs and policies that promote agriculture, allow senior citizens to live with dignity and gives everyone a fair shake," he said.  "But above all, we need someone who will commit to work with members of both political parties to develop pragmatic solutions to the difficult problems we face as a state. That is my commitment to this district and the people who live here." 

A student at Montana State-University-Northern who is majoring in education and is a part-time cash office manager at Herbergers also has filed, running for re-election to the seat he took as the youngest lawmaker in the nation.

Courtesy photo

Brad Lotton

Jacob Bachmeier, who chairs the Hill County Democratic Central Committee, filed to run for a second term.

"I am running for re-election to continue the honor of representing my hometown," Bachmeier said Thursday in a Facebook Instant Messenger conversation. "I am excited to carry legislation to strengthen our already wonderful state.

"If I have the privilege of being re-elected, I look forward to strengthening public education, improving access to public lands, investing in infrastructure, and increasing access to mental health care," he added.

First-term state Rep. Casey Knudsen, R-Malta, has also filed to run for re-election.

No other Republicans or Democrats representing districts in this part of Montana had filed by printing deadline this morning

 

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