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Ballotpedia's 2012 General Election Preview Articles: Montana State Executive Officials

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November 2, 2012

By Greg Janetka

Portal:State Executive Officials

HELENA, Montana: Candidates running for the nine state executive seats up for election in Montana this year have shaken hands, kissed babies, and made their positions known - now they must leave it up to the voters.

It's a full slate this year with the following positions on the ballot:

Five incumbents are seeking re-election. Of the remaining four incumbents, two - Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) and Public Service Commissioner Brad Molnar (R) - were prevented by term from running for the same office, one is running for a different office (Attorney General Steve Bullock is running for governor) and one, Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger, is retiring.

 Candidates for governor 

See also: Montana gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial election, 2012

Montana's current governor, Brian Schweitzer, is prevented by term limits from seeking another term in office. Schweitzer's lieutenant governor, John Bohlinger, has announced he would retire at the end of his current term, leaving both seats open.

In Montana, the governor and lieutenant governor are elected on a single ticket. This year, 11 sets of candidates entered the race: two Democrats, seven Republicans, one Libertarian and one set of independent candidates. The field was whittled down to the following:

Democratic Party Steve Bullock & John E. Walsh: Bullock is the current Attorney General of Montana; Walsh is a two-star general in the Montana National Guard.
Republican Party Rick Hill & Jon Sonju: Hill, a former Congressman, tapped state Senator Jon Sonju to be his running mate, touting Sonju's experience.

 Candidates for lieutenant governor 

Libertarian Party Ron Vandevender & Marc Mulcahy: Vandevender prides himself on living "off the grid" - generating his own electricity, growing a lot of his own food, and building his house by hand. He lives in Craig, MT and helps raise his grandchildren.[1] His running mate is Marc Mulcahy.
Independent Bill Coate & Joni Oja: Coate is a retired Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, running as an independent because "the two-party system is broken" and "party politics and career politicians care more about maintaining power than finding common sense solutions to our nation's problems."[2] He is running with Joni Oja.

The race has been consistently close and is considered to be a toss-up. The latest poll from Public Policy Polling, taken October 8-10, found Hill leading Bullock 43-42 with Vandevender and Coate both at 4 percent.[3] PPP's previously poll on September 10-11 found Bullock leading Hill 44-39, with the other two candidates at 4 percent.[4]

Hill has recently come under fire for accepting a $500,000 donation from the Montana Republican Party. The donation was made on October 4, the day after a district judge ruled that the state contribution limits were illegal. However, a circuit court judge put that on hold, reinstating the campaign limits at least through the election. Hill's campaign said that since it was during the period when the law was ruled illegal they did nothing wrong. Bullock, meanwhile, filed suit against Hill on October 18 seeking to force Hill to return the money. Per Montana law, political parties can donate a maximum of $22,600 to a candidate, which the state GOP had already given to Hill previously.[5]

Montana District Judge Kathy Seeley issued a restraining order on October 24, forcing Hill to temporarily stop spending the disputed money and cancel all pending ads purchased with it. She scheduled oral arguments in the case for October 29.[6]

 Candidates for Secretary of State 
See also: Montana secretary of state election, 2012

Democratic Party Linda McCulloch (D)
Republican Party Brad Johnson (R)
Libertarian Party Roger Roots (L)

This year's race for secretary of state is a familiar one to Montana voters - current incumbent Linda McCulloch (D) is seeking re-election against her predecessor Brad Johnson (R), whom she narrowly defeated for the seat in 2008.

MuCulloch, Montana's first female secretary of state, has reminded the press about her favorable spending record, and pledged to continue her efforts to simplify the voting process. Even against a swelling tide of conservatives targeting illegal immigrant voters, she stated that, “Onerous ID requirements, arcane restrictions on voter registration and limited access to absentee ballots are nothing more than deliberate efforts to disenfranchise voters.”[7]

McCulloch was unopposed in her party's primary while Johnson had to defeat two challengers in the Republican primary in order to set up the rematch.

Johnson served one term as secretary, before McCulloch, the former Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction, took office in 2009. He has since run unsuccessfully for Public Service Commission in 2010, worked as a consultant, and on an alternative-energy development venture.[8] Upon announcing his candidacy last October, Johnson said his campaign would not be concentrating heavily on criticizing McCulloch's administration, but instead "it's going to be about the successes we had in the first term and continuing to realize the vision I had for the future of the office."[8]

Criminologist and civil liberties activist Roger Roots is running as a Libertarian.[9]

Much like the gubernatorial race, the latest poll from Public Policy Polling indicates a battle on election night. The numbers from Oct 8-10 have McCulloch up 42-41 over Johnson, with Roots at 8 percent.[3]

 Candidates for Attorney General 
See also: Montana attorney general election, 2012

Democratic Party Pam Bucy (D)
Republican Party Tim Fox (R)

Current Attorney General of Montana Steve Bullock (D) is vacating his seat to run for the Governor's office in 2012. His absence leaves Montana Department of Labor attorney Pam Bucy (D) and Helena lawyer Tim Fox (R) vying for the position.[10]

Fox ran for the AG's office in the 2008 election, winning the Republican primary but ultimately losing the general election to Bullock by a narrow margin, with about 47.4% of the vote. Fox aims to block "federal intrusion into Montana state sovereignty," by defending gun rights and joining with other states in battles to prevent the implementation of health care reform law that mandates individuals’ purchase of health coverage.[11]

Fox has appeared to have a clear lead throughout the race - the latest from Public Policy Polling has him up over Bucy 45-35.[3]

 Candidates for State Auditor 
See also: Montana down ballot state executive elections, 2012

Democratic Party Monica Lindeen (D)
Republican Party Derek Skees (R)

Democratic incumbent Monica Lindeen is seeking re-election to a second term in office as Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance, State Auditor. Her challenger, Derek Skees, is a freshman Republican state representative.[12]

A major issue of the 2012 campaign has been implementation of the Affordable Care Act, referred to as "Obamacare." Lindeen said she has worked to make sure Montana maintains its authority over insurance. To that end, in 2011 she asked the Legislature to create a state-based exchange and give the state the power to review health-insurance rate increases, something which they failed to do.

She stated, “What I’ve really worked to do is make sure we maintain our state authority as the feds are implementing the Affordable Care Act. My opponent, and others like him, said no.”[13]

Lindeen has painted Skees as being too out of the mainstream for the position, calling him an ineffective legislator whose proposed bills weren't taken up by his own party. Skees, meanwhile, has touted himself as having an important outsider's view.[14]

Lindeen leads Skees in the most recent poll from Public Policy Poll 44-37.[3]

 Candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction 
See also: Montana down ballot state executive elections, 2012

Democratic Party Denise Juneau (D)
Republican Party Sandy Welch (R)

When Democratic incumbent Denise Juneau first won election as Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2008, she became the first American Indian woman elected to a statewide position.[15] In her bid for a second term Juneau will meet Republican Sandy Welch in the general election. Welch a business consultant, former school administrator, and former teacher,[16] has not held public office.

Another tight race, Juneau leads Welch 41-40 in the most recent poll.[3]

See also: Montana down ballot state executive elections, 2012

 Candidates for PSC - District 2 

District 2

Democratic Party Chuck Tooley (D)
Republican Party Kirk Bushman (R)

Due to term limits, Republican incumbent Brad Molnar was unable to seek re-election. Former Billings Mayor Chuck Tooley will carry the torch for Democrats while[17] Yellowstone County GOP Chair Kirk Bushman seeks to keep the seat in Republican hands.[18]

 Candidates for PSC - District 3 

District 3

Democratic Party John Vincent (D) Incumbent
Republican Party Roger Koopman (R)

Democratic incumbent and former Bozeman Public Schools teacher John Vincent is seeking to defend his seat and win a second term on the Montana Public Service Commission. In order to do so he will have to defeat former state legislator and president of the Montana Conservative Alliance Roger Koopman.[19]

Vincent was first elected to the Public Service Commission in 2008. He has a long history in politics, including serving in the Montana House of Representatives from 1975-1990 and on the Gallatin County Commission from 2001-2006.[20]

 Candidates for PSC - District 4 

District 4

Democratic Party Gail Gutsche (D) Incumbent
Republican Party Bob Lake (R)

Democratic incumbent Gail Gutsche is seeking her second term in office. When she was elected in 2008 she became only the second woman to serve on the Public Service Commission. Prior to that she served in the Montana House of Representatives from 1999-2005.[21]

Gutsche will face current state Sen. Bob Lake for the seat.

See also



Ballotpedia News
  1. Belgrade News, "The dark horse of Yazoo City," January 8, 2012
  2., "About Bill," accessed March 13, 2012
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Public Policy Polling Public Policy Polling, "Governor of Montana poll," October 8 – 10, 2012
  4. Public Policy Polling, "Governor of Montana poll," September 10 – 11, 2012
  5. Missoulian, "Bullock files suit over GOP's $500K donation to Hill," October 19, 2012
  6. Ravalli Republic, "Governor's race: Hill told to stop spending disputed $500K," October 25, 2012
  7. The Missoulian, "McCulloch files for re-election as secretary of state," March 1, 2012
  8. 8.0 8.1 The Missoulian, "Brad Johnson announces bid to regain secretary of state's office," October 13, 2011
  9. Montana Secretary of State, "Candidate filing," accessed March 13, 2012
  10. The Missoulian, "Tim Fox announces bid for Montana GOP nomination as AG," March 9, 2012
  11. Ravalli Republic, "Helena lawyer Fox files to run for Montana attorney general as Republican," March 9, 2012
  12. Great Falls Tribune, "Montana primary election ballots set; record number file," March 13, 2012
  13. Missoulian, "Auditor candidates tout coal bonafides at debate," October 4, 2012
  14. Canadian Business Network, "Lindeen says opponent Skees not in the mainstream," October 17, 2012
  15. Montana Office of Public Instruction, "Biography of the Denise Juneau," accessed March 13, 2012
  16. Politics 1, "Montana," accessed March 13, 2012
  17. KULR 8, "Chuck Tooley Runs For Montana Public Service Commission," March 12, 2012
  18. Yellowstone County Republicans, "Meet the Chairman, Kirk Bushman," accessed March 13, 2012 (dead link)
  19. Helena Independent Record, "Five candidates seeking PSC seat held by John Vincent," March 7, 2012
  20. Project Vote Smart, "John Vincent biography," accessed March 13, 2012
  21. Montana Public Service Commission, "Gail Gutsche," accessed March 13, 2012