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By Tim Leeds 

Montana voters make choices in Montana primary election


Editor’s note: This version corrects the date of the last election for statewide offices to 2018 and the office in which Blaine County Clerk of District Court Tami Mitchell was running for re-election.

The unofficial results are in for the Montana primary elections including some closely contested and even nationally watched races.

The Republicans are hoping to take back the Montana governor's office that the Democrats have held for 16 years, while the Democrats are trying to take back a U.S. Senate seat and win Montana's sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since the 1990s.

Republicans also hope to retain Montana's other statewide offices, with all but the governor's office won by Republicans in 2016, but only one incumbent running for re-election.

Local voters picked the same winner as the state total in all the federal and statewide elections, with the majority of votes in Blaine, Chouteau and Hill counties going to the eventual winner.

Hill County saw a fairly high turnout, with an estimated 62 percent of ballots mailed out returned or about 53 percent of active and inactive registered voters.

A trickle of voters were coming in to the Hill County Clerk and Recorder's Office to return ballots or register and vote right up until the 8 p.m. close of polls. 

A few precincts were not fully reported on the Montana secretary of state's election results page this morning, but with 579 of 663 precincts fully counted and 84 more partially counted, the leaders from the very start kept their lead.

In the federal contests, incumbent Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock and Green Party candidate Wendie Fredrickson advanced to November's general election. 

Daines won a three-way primary with 88 percent of the vote. John Driscoll of Helena and Daniel Larson of Stevensville each took 6 percent.

Bullock took 95 percent of the Democratic vote, with John Mues of Loma taking 2 percent and Mike Knoles of Bozeman, who dropped out of the race several months ago but was still on the ballot, also taking 2 percent.

In the only contested Green Party primary, Fredrickson, of Helena, took 66 percent of the vote and Dennis Daneke of Lolo took 34 percent.

In the Democratic race to try to take the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, former state Rep. Kathleen Williams of Bozeman beat Rep. Tom Winter of Missoula 89 percent to 11 percent.

And in the six-way Republican primary for that seat, State Auditor Matt Rosendale kept his early lead to win with 48 percent of the vote. Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton came in second with 33 percent, while  Debra Lamm, both a former Montana Republican Party Chair and former state representative, took 7 percent, Lewis and Clark County Republican Central Committee Chair Joe Dooling took 6 percent, Mark McGinley of Dillon took 4 percent and John Evankovich of Butte took two percent.

Green Party candidate John Gibney of Hamilton was unopposed.

In the presidential race, Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden both were unopposed in their primaries, although candidates who had dropped out still were on the Democratic ballot.

Trump took 94 percent of the Republican vote, with 6 percent listed as no preference.

Biden took 74 percent of the ballots in the Democratic primary, with 15 percent going to Bernie Sanders and 8 percent to Elizabeth Warren and  3 percent listed as no preference.

In the race for Montana governor, Democratic Lt. Governor Mike Cooney and U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte advanced to the general election, as did Green Party candidate Robert Barb, who was unopposed.

Cooney and his lieutenant governor candidate, Casey Schreiner, took 55 percent of the Democrats' votes, while Missoula businesswoman and social activist Whitney Williams, the daughter of former U.S. Rep. Pat Williams and former Montana Rep. and Senate Minority and Majority Leader Carol Williams, and her running mate, Buzz Matelin, took 45 percent.

Gianforte and his running mate, Kristen Juras, took 53 percent of the Republican vote in the race while Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, who cannot run for that office due to term limits, and his running mate, John Knokey, took 27 percent. Kalispell state Sen. Al Oszewski and his lieutenant governor candidate, Ken Bogner, took 19 percent.

In the race to take Stapleton's place as secretary of state, Democrat Bryce Bennett was unopposed, and a first-time candidate beat a field of elected officials and one other newcomer to advance as the Republican candidate.

Deputy Secretary of State Christi Jacobson took 29 percent of the ballots, while Montana Senate President Scott Sales took 25 percent, former Secretary of State and incumbent Public Service Commission Chair Brad Johnson took 23 percent, state Rep. Forrest Mandeville of Columbus took 10 percent, Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court Bownen Greenwood took 7 percent and Kurt Johnson of Missoula took 5 percent.

In the races to take Fox's place as attorney general, Roosevelt County Attorney and former Speaker of the Montana House of Representatives Austin Knudsen won with 60 percent of the Republican vote and Deputy Attorney General John Bennion took 40 percent. 

Raph Graybill, chief counsel for Gov. Steve Bullock, won the Democratic primary with 57 percent of the votes to state Rep. Kimberly Dudik of Frenchtown taking 43 percent.

Green Party candidate Roy Davis of Helena was unopposed in the primary.

And in the race to advance to try to win the state auditor seat being vacated by Rosendale, on the Democratic ballots, former state Rep. Shane Morigeau of Missoula took 61 percent and former auditor's office attorney Mike Winsor took 39 percent.

In the Republican primary, Big Sky businessman Troy Downing won with 50 percent of the vote while insurance agent Scott "Tux" Tuxbury took 30 percent and Billings-area insurance company employee Nelly Nicol took 20 percent.

Republican incumbent Superintendent of Public Schools Elsie Arntzen was unopposed in her primary, as was her Democratic challenger, Melissa Romano, setting up a replay of the 2016 general election in which Arntzen defeated Romano.

Few local races had contested primaries, with no challengers in those races in the general election.

In the race for Hill County public administrator, incumbent Maggie Bigleggins defeated challenger Dave Brewer, taking 1,033 votes to Brewer's 724.

In the race for the Democratic nomination for Senate District 16, Mike Fox of Hays won with 624 votes while incumbent Rep. Bridget Smith of Wolf Point, who cannot run for re-election to that seat due to term limits, took 538 votes, Jestin Dupree of Poplar received 367 votes and Kristoffer Fourstar of Wolf Point took 346.

Candidates from no other parties have filed in that race.

In the race for House District 33, incumbent Rep. Casey Knudsen of Malta easily defeated his challenger, Joyce Stone of Glasgow, taking 1,777 votes in the Republican primary with Stone taking 845.

Knudsen is unopposed in the general election.

The winner of the four-way Republican primary for Chouteau County sheriff, with all candidates from Big Sandy, was Rick Darlington with 890 votes. Incumbent Daren Schuster took second with 415 votes, while Beau Pegar took 174 votes and Reece Ophus took 128.

In the Democratic primary in the race for Blaine County clerk of District Court, incumbent Tami Mitchell won with 512 votes while challenger Jim Doyle took 400 votes.


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