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Candidate Filing Deadline Firms Up State Elections

At 5 p.m. Monday, March 11, the window closed for candidates to file to run for elected office in Montana this year, officially setting the stage for a hugely consequential election season.

Toward the top of the ballot — not counting the presidential contest between presumptive nominees Joe Biden and Donald Trump — voters will have a choice between incumbent U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and a slew of challengers intent on stopping the Democrat from winning a fourth term, chief among them Republican businessman Tim Sheehy. But with 416 total candidates having filed to run for offices ranging from U.S. Senate to the state Legislature, there will be plenty of other names for voters to ponder come the June primary.

“Thank you and congratulations to all of the candidates who filed to represent our wonderful state,” Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen, Montana’s top election administrator, said in a statement upon the close of filing. “I wish all candidates the best of luck in the upcoming elections.”

The 2022 election season in Montana was a relatively quiet affair. This year is already proving quite the opposite. At the federal level, Montanans will vote for president, the U.S. Senate and two seats in Congress. Statewide, they’ll vote for the governorship, two open seats on the state Supreme Court, the court’s clerk, three seats on the state’s utility regulation board, the superintendent of public instruction, state auditor, secretary of state and several district court positions. And they’ll elect state legislators using new legislative maps fresh off a once-adecade update cycle.

Montana’s 2024 ballot will host a suite of consequential elections — among them a race that could decide the balance of the U.S. Senate, two open seats on the Montana Supreme Court, two U.S. House races, Montana’s governorship and a bevy of statewide offices. Here’s who’s queuing up to run.

Here’s a look at who’s filed for federal and statewide offices: U.S. SENATE Republicans are hoping to oust Tester — seen by political observers as one of the U.S. Senate’s most vulnerable members — en route to capturing the two seats necessary for a majority in that chamber. Montana’s junior U.S. senator, Republican Steve Daines, has an outsized role this cycle as well. Though he’s not up for election until 2026, he chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the party organ tasked with electing Republicans to the U.S. Senate.

The NRSC has recruited Tim Sheehy, a wealthy political neophyte who owns an aerial firefighting business in the Gallatin Valley, to challenge Tester. For months, it seemed as if Matt Rosendale, a hardline Republican congressman who currently represents eastern Montana, would enter the race as well, which he did briefly before dropping out. Former Montana secretary of state and Public Service Commission member Brad Johnson is also running on the Republican ticket, pledging to give GOP voters an alternative to a candidate often critiqued by his competitors as having been hand-picked by powerful forces in Washington D.C. Sid Daoud, a Libertarian, is also hoping that some of what would have been Rosendale voters will come to his side. Also on the primary ballot is Republican Charles Walkingchild Sr. and Democrat Michael Hummert. Green Party candidates Robert Barb and Michael Downey are also running. U.S. HOUSE, EASTERN DISTRICT Rosendale’s decision to not seek re-election to the state’s eastern district House seat has opened a path for a litany of Republicans to replace him. Several Democrats are seeking election to the seat as well, but the district’s heavily Republican tilt makes it likely that whoever wins the GOP primary this June will win the general election in November.

Prominent GOP candidates for the office include former Congressman Denny Rehberg, who represented Montana’s single at-large district from 2001 to 2013, term-limited Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen and State Auditor Troy Downing. Other Republicans seeking to replace Rosendale include state Sen. Ken Bogner, R-Miles City; former state lawmakers Joel Krautter, Ric Holden and Ed Waker; and former Drug Enforcement Agency official Stacy Zinn. Democratic primary ballots for the seat will list Helena’s Kevin Hamm, Billings’ Ming Cabrera, Broadus’ Steve Held, and Helena’s John Driscoll. U.S. HOUSE, WESTERN DISTRICT In Montana’s western U.S. House district, Democrat Monica Tranel is looking for a rematch with incumbent Republican Ryan Zinke. Tranel has no primary opponent, but Zinke, a former U.S. Secretary of the Interior under former President Donald Trump, will need to fend off a challenge from Kalispell pastor Mary Todd. Libertarians Dennis Hayes and Ernie Noble are also vying for the seat, which Zinke won over Tranel by about 3 percentage points in 2022.


At the state level, Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte is seeking re-election. In the primary, he’ll face a challenge from Republican state Rep. Tanner Smith, R-Lakeside. His highest profile Democratic challenger is author and former firearms executive Ryan Busse, who will first have to prevail in a primary contest with Helena’s Jim Hunt. Libertarian Kaiser Leib, a tech entrepreneur and standup comedian, is also running for governor.

MONTANA SUPREME COURT The planned retirements of Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike McGrath and Associate Justice Dirk Sandefur will create two open seats on the state’s high court this year. These are non-partisan elections that nonetheless have played host to major political flashpoints in recent years, as the Supreme Court weighs, among other issues, the constitutionality of legislation that is currently under legal scrutiny.

Vying to replace McGrath are former federal magistrate court judge Jerry Lynch, Broadwater County Attorney Cory Swanson and Helena attorney Doug Marshall. Candidates looking to replace Sandefur include district court judges Dan Wilson and Katherine Bidegaray, as well as former Republican state lawmaker Jerry O’Neill.

MONTANA ATTORNEY GENERAL Incumbent Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, a no-holds-barred Republican with a penchant for weighing in on hot political topics at home and nationwide, is seeking re-election. He faces a Democratic challenge from Bozeman attorney Ben Alke. Helena’s Logan Olson will also be on the Republican ballot.

MONTANA SECRETARY OF STATE Republican Christi Jacobsen is seeking re-election as secretary of state, a role with a number of responsibilities including as the state’s chief election administrator. Democratic newspaper publisher Jesse Mullen is hoping to oust her, while former congressional candidate John Lamb is running as a Libertarian. STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen is termed out of her current office and seeking election to the U.S. House in the state’s eastern district. Republican Townsend School District Superintendent Susie Hedalen, who also serves as vice chair of the state Board of Public Education, is running to replace Arntzen, as is Arntzen’s current deputy, Sharyl Allen. State Sen. Shannon O’Brien, D-Missoula, a longtime educator, is running for the position as a Democratic.

MONTANA STATE AUDITOR Montana’s auditor is, among other roles, the state’s top insurance and securities regulator. Incumbent Troy Downing, a Republican, is leaving the position to run for Congress. Several Republicans are running to replace him, including Public Service Commission President James Brown, state Sen. Steve Gunderson, R-Libby, Helena’s John Jay Willoughby and Miles City’s Keith Brownfield. The only Democrat on the ballot is Whitefish’s John Repke.

PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION There are three seats up for grabs on Montana’s utility regulation board, the Public Service Commission. Candidates for the commission’s second district include Republicans Kirk Bushman and state Sen. Brad Molnar, R-Laurel, as well as Democrat Susan Bilo. Candidates for the commission’s third district include three Republicans: Rob Elwood, Suzzann Nordwick and State Sen. Jeff Welborn, R-Dillon. The only Democrat running for that commission seat is Leonard Williams. For the commission’s fourth district, Republican Jennifer Fielder is seeking re-election. She faces a primary challenge from Al Dunlap.

CLERK OF THE SUPREME COURT Unlike the positions on the Montana Supreme Court itself, the clerk of the state Supreme Court is a partisan position. Incumbent Republican Bowen Greenwood is seeking re-election, and faces a primary challenge from state Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, who served as the Senate president in the 2023 Legislature. Democrats Erin Farris-Olson and Jordan Ophus are also running for the clerkship, as is Libertarian Roger Roots.

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