Bullock files as candidate in Senate race
Another candidate files in Chouteau County Commission primary, Democrat files in Hill County Commission race to create general election race
Last updated 3/9/2020 at 2:13pm
Editor’s note This version adds Montana secretary of state candidate Rep. Forrest Mandeville, R-Columbus, and that Mike Knoles has announced he is dropping out of the U.S. Senate race and corrects that Steve Bullock is a former attorney general.
Some new filings are changing the tone of several races in the 2020 election, including Montana's governor stepping into the race for U.S. Senate after months of calls from the Democratic Party.
Gov. Steve Bullock has joined a crowded field running for the seat now held by U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who has a primary race of his own.
Daines won the U.S. House seat vacated by Rep. Dennis Rehberg, R-Mont., in 2012 when Rehberg made a failed bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
He then ran for the Senate when Sen. Max Baucus did not run for re-election, winning the primary and defeating former state Sen. Kim Gillan, D-Billings, in the primary election.
Daines has filed as a candidate for re-election, but faces a primary challenge from Republicans John Brian Driscoll of Helena and Daniel Larson of Stevensville.
And the Green Party has qualified to put candidates on the ballot, with Wendie Fredrickson of Helena having filed in the Senate race.
Eric Fulton of Whitefish has filed in that race as a Libertarian.
Bullock, a former attorney general and two-term governor who cannot run for re-election due to term limits, made a run in the U.S. presidential race, pulling from that race in early December.
He was criticized by some members of his party for running for president because they said he was the party's best chance to unseat Daines. Bullock, throughout his presidential race and when he withdrew from that race, said he had no interest in running for the Senate.
In his announcement this morning, Bullock said he talked it over with his wife and children, after talking to Montanans about the race, and decided to run.
"We decided now is no time to be on the sidelines, and that's why I'm running so we can make Washington work more like Montana," he said in the release.
A media advisory said Bullock will file at noon and will take questions after he files.
His entry has already changed the race. Democratic candidate Cora Neumann of Bozeman has withdrawn from the race, saying she will back Bullock in his campaign, and scientist Mike Knoles of Bozeman tweeted he was leaving the race.
That leaves Helena candidate Wilmott Collins and John Mues of Loma as the other Democratic candidates in the race.
And in another switch, Montana Public Service Commission Chair Brad Johnson filed as a candidate for Montana Secretary of State Sunday.
Johnson served as secretary of state from 2005-2009, losing to Democrat Linda McCullock in 2008 and losing to her again in 2012. He was elected to the PSC in 2014 and was re-elected in 2018, and has two years left on his term there.
He faces Montana Clerk of the Supreme Court Bowen Greenwood, Deputy Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen of Helena, Rep. Forrest Mandeville, R-Columbus, and state Senate President Scott Sales of Bozeman in the Republican primary.
State Sen. Bryce Bennett of Missoula was the sole Democratic candidate for the office this morning.
Incumbent Republican Secretary of State Corey Stapleton announced he would run for the U.S. House of Representatives after Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., announced in June he would run for governor instead of trying for re-election to the House.
Stapleton had not filed for the House race as of this morring.
But incumbent state Auditor Matt Rosendale, who also announced his plans to run for Gianforte's seat, has filed, opening the race for his position.
On the Democrat side of the auditor race, state Rep. Shane Morigeau of Missoula has filed, and Roger Roots of Livingston has filed as Libertarian.
Three Republicans now have filed in that race, with insurance agent Scott "Tux" Tuxbury of Helena filing March 2 and facing insurance company employee Nelly Nicol of Billings and Big Sky businessman Troy Downing, who failed in a bid for the U.S. Senate in 2016, in the Republican primary.
And in the U.S. House race, Rosendale faces Mark McGinley of Dillon; Butte electrician John Evankovich; Lewis and Clark County Republican Central Committee Chair Joe Dooling; Debra Lamm, both a former Montana Republican Party chair and former Republican state representative from Livingston.
On the Democratic side, former state Sen. Kathleen Williams of Bozeman, who lost in Gianforte's win to retain his seat in 2018, faces Rep. Tom Winter of Missoula, who filed as a candidate Thursday.
John Gibney of Hamilton has filed as a Green Party candidate in that race.
In the race for governor, Gianforte faces Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, who cannot run for re-election due to term limits, and state Sen. Al Olszewski of Kalispell in the Republican primary.
Missoula philanthropic businesswoman Whitney Williams, daughter of longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Pat Williams, faces former lawmaker and secretary of state Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney in the Democratic primary.
In the race for state superintendent of public instruction, which had been a rematch against incumbent Republican Elsie Arntzen and Democrat Melissa Romano, who lost to Arntzen in 2016, a Libertarian candidate has entered the field. Kevin Leatherbarrow of Great Falls filed as a candidate Friday.
And local races have seen some movement, including in the race for the Hill County Commission seat held by Mike Wendland.
Jacob Strissell of Rudyard filed as a Democrat in that race, setting up a general election with race with Republican Mark Wicks of Inverness, who ran as a Libertarian in the special election for the U.S. House seat in 2017 and as a Republican for the Public Service Commission in 2018.
In other Hill County races, incumbent Democratic Clerk of District Court Kathy Vigliotti has filed for re-election, and Democratic Public Administrator Maggie Big Leggings now faces a primary challenge from Dave Brewer.
No one this morning had filed for the Hill County superintendent of schools seat to which Marie Deegan was appointed last year.
In Chouteau County, another Republican has joined the race for county commissioner.
Reece Ophus is challenging incumbent Daren Schuster and other challengers Rick Darlington and Beau Pegar. All are from Big Sandy.
Republican Chouteau County Clerk of District Court/Superintendent of Schools/County Surveyor Rick Cook is unopposed so far in his bid for re-election, while Democrat Jodie Butler was the sole candidate this morning for Chouteau County public administrator, now held by Democrat Karen Brooke.
Blaine County has a Democratic primary for clerk of district court, with incumbent Tami Mitchell facing Jim Doyle.
Incumbent Blaine County Commissioner Dolores Plumage has filed for re-election as a Democrat with no opponent as of this morning.
In Liberty County, incumbent Democrats Liberty County Commissioner Maureen Wicks and Clerk of District Court Anne Seidlitz-Melton both have filed for re-election, without opposition so far.