After all of the hoopla over last week’s primary election, it’s kind of hard to believe that was only the semifinals. The championship round is still coming up in November.
So how are the final matchups looking? Here’s a quick overview of the races, top to bottom, that affect Yellowstone County voters.
♦ President: A few diehards are still hoping to change the outcome, but the race in November is almost certain to be between a pair of New Yorkers: Hillary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R). Early polls indicate a close race, with Clinton still trying to convince Bernie Sanders supporters that she’s not a corporate shill and Trump trying to convince Republicans that a vote for a lying, ethically challenged racist is better than a vote for a lying, ethically challenged liberal. The good news for voters: Either way, we get a president who knows how to lie, which is an essential skill in the political and diplomatic morass we live in.
♦ U.S. representative: Democrat Denise Juneau, forced out as superintendent of public instruction because of term limits, is challenging incumbent Republican Ryan Zinke. Perennial candidate Mike Fellows is running as a Libertarian.
Juneau, an enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa Tribes, would be the first American Indian woman elected to Congress if she wins. Beating an incumbent is always tough, but the Washington Post has listed this as one of the top five House races to watch in the country, especially if an anti-Trump backlash washes over the nation.
Zinke had an embarrassing victory earlier this year when a bill he sponsored requiring women to register for the draft made it into the national defense bill. Zinke actually opposed the bill, which he had introduced to make a political point. Instead, he made a different point: Be careful what you vote for.
♦ Governor: Steve Bullock (D) and Greg Gianforte (R) both won their primaries easily over late-filing candidates who served mainly to allow the major candidates to roll their primary funds into the general election. Some observers wondered whether it was a sign of weakness that political newcomer Gianforte lost 23 percent of the vote to Terry Nelson, who is scarcely known and barely campaigned (Bullock got 91 percent against a similarly energetic opponent). But 23 percent is suspiciously close to the Crazification Factor in any population and may amount to nothing. Ted Dunlap is running as a Libertarian candidate.
So this may boil down to a classic liberal-conservative clash of political ideologies, in which case we are likely to hear very little about political ideology between now and November. Instead, we will hear that Bullock rides too many airplanes and that Gianforte hates retired people. Also, he is not from Montana. Politics at its finest.
Stapleton served in the Navy before he was elected to two terms in the state Senate. He has since run for governor and for the U.S. House but lost Republican primaries in each race. His website is remarkably issue-free, but one potential point of attack is that as state auditor, Lindeen also was the state’s commissioner of insurance and securities, which made her responsible for implementing the least popular aspects of Obamacare in Montana.
Roger Roots is running as a Libertarian. Roots, who lives in Livingston, has acknowledged his past racist activities but says he now knows better and that history is long past.
♦ Attorney general: Incumbent Tim Fox (R) is challenged by Larry Jent (D), who spent three terms in the Montana House and two in the Senate. He also is a former Green Beret and Eagle Scout, and he has been a lawyer in Montana for 32 years.
Fox, who grew up in Hardin, was no Green Beret, but he did wrestle a drunk to the ground in March at an energy conference in Billings. Fox has fought medical marijuana while Jent favors it. Fox opposes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan while Jent had three straight 100 percent ratings from Montana Conservation Voters before dropping to 79 percent in 2013. Fox emphasizes his support for the Second Amendment; Jent sponsored a Castle Doctrine bill protecting the rights of homeowners to defend themselves, but he voted against what he called a “goofy gun bill” that would have prohibited local authorities from enforcing any federal ban on assault rifles.
♦ State auditor: With Lindeen’s term-limited departure, Jesse Laslovich, a Democrat who now serves as chief legal counsel for the office, is seeking promotion to the top job. His website claims he has recovered $100 million for Montana victims of securities fraud. He is challenged by Matt Rosendale, R-Glendive, the Senate majority leader, who calls Obamacare a “nightmare.” Laslovich has acknowledged defects in Obamacare but does not disavow it, and he has noted that more Montanans now have insurance than ever before.
♦ State superintendent of public instruction: Denise Juneau, forced out by term limits, will lose the job to Melissa Romano, a Helena Democrat, or to Elsie Arntzen, a Billings Republican and former legislator. Both think students are tested too much, but the teachers union has come out against Arntzen because of her views on school privatization. She has voted for vouchers and for tax credits for private schools.
♦ Public Service Commission, District 2: Tony O’Donnell of Billings narrowly defeated incumbent Kirk Bushman in the Republican primary, and there is no Democratic opponent. Even among his fellow Republicans on the PSC, Bushman was blasted for favoring industry interests too strongly, and for his poor attendance record. O’Donnell lost a 2014 House race to Margie MacDonald by a scant 13 votes in his third unsuccessful House race.
♦ Montana Supreme Court: In the only contested Supreme Court race, Kristen Juras and Dirk Sandefur will face off in November to replace retiring Justice Patricia O’Brien Cotter. Juras defeated Sandefur by more than 20,000 votes in a primary election that served only to eliminate a third candidate, Eric Mills, from the race.
Juras, who teaches at the University of Montana School of Law, achieved brief notoriety in 2009 when she asked the editors of the student newspaper to quit publishing a sex column that she called “embarrassingly unprofessional.” Sandefur, a district court judge in Great Falls, lost to Juras despite a substantial fundraising edge.
Although this is a nonpartisan race, and although both candidates say they would be fair and impartial, Juras is generally painted as the conservative in this race and Sandefur as the liberal.
♦ Senate District 21: All of the bills introduced last session by Carolyn Pease-Lopez, D-Billings, had to do with social services for children and providers. Her attempt to move from the House to the Senate in this district, largely composed of Big Horn County voters, is opposed by Republican Jason Small, a Northern Cheyenne tribal member whose emphasis is on economic development.
♦ Senate District 23: Incumbent Republican Roger Webb says he supports an improved economy, lower taxes and “traditional family values.” Paul Van Tricht, D-Billings, has been active in the local Democratic Party but lost a 2014 House race to Don Jones. He formerly was a lawyer for the state of Montana.
♦ Senate District 25: Incumbent Robyn Driscoll, D-Billings, has a 95 percent rating from Montana Conservation Voters. Republican Donna Huston, executive director of the Center for Children and Families, has run a quiet campaign so far but says her goal is to “improve Montana for all families, children and individuals in our beloved state.”
♦ Senate District 26: Republican Don Roberts won a narrow majority over two primary opponents to take on Margie MacDonald, D-Billings, who, term-limited out of the House, is attempting to move to the Senate. Roberts, who has served twice in the House, from 2003 to 2007 and 2008 to 2012, is chief executive officer of Riverstone Oral Surgery and Implants.
♦ Senate District 28: Tom Richmond won a closely contested primary despite complaints by some Republicans that he voted too much like a Democrat as a House member in the last legislative session. Deborah Abbey, D-Billings, works at Billings Clinic and owns a promotional products company. She favors comprehensive health care, increased funding for colleges and expanded access to medical marijuana.
♦ State representative, District 39: Incumbent Republican Geraldine Custer is opposed by Bruce Miller, a Democrat who has run a largely invisible campaign so far.
♦ State representative, District 40: Barry Usher, R-Billings, is the owner of Harley-Davidson in Billings and a candidate with Tea Party leanings. He was defeated in a Senate race in 2014 and is opposed this time by Democrat Edith Sloan of Roundup, who lost a 2014 House race.
♦ State representative, District 42: Sharon Stewart Peregoy, D-Crow Agency, is unopposed in her attempt to move from the Senate to the House.
♦ State representative, District 43: Elizabeth Pincolini, D-Billings, is best known for her work in favor of medical marijuana. Peggy Webb, the wife of Republican Sen. Roger Webb, ran unopposed for the seat now held by Clayton Fiscus, who is not running for re-election. Libertarian Josh Daniels also is running.
♦ State representative, District 44: Incumbent Republican Dale Mortensen may be best known for his failed bill that would have required a $100 permit for film or TV crews to shoot footage of law enforcement officers conducting official business on private property. Democrat Kari Boiter says her campaign for this Heights district aims to preserve pristine outdoor spaces and ensure economic security.
♦ State representative, District 45: Former Billings City Council member Ken Crouch, a Democrat, is challenging incumbent Republican Daniel Zolnikov, who held off a primary challenge.
♦ State representative, District 46: Angie Buckley, a City Council candidate last year, is running as a Democrat against incumbent Don Jones.
♦ State representative, District 47: Incumbent Democrat Kathy Kelker, long active in education in Billings, is opposed by Republican Jason Lee Thomas, a native Texan.
♦ State representative, District 48: Incumbent Rep. Jessica Karjala, D-Billings, is opposed by Republican Robert Saunders, formerly of Xander Fasteners Inc. and of Western Builders Supply.
♦ State representative, District 49: In a classic liberal-conservative matchup, incumbent Kelly McCarthy, a Democrat, faces Brian Kenat, who has been active in the local Republican Party and has been attacked for inflammatory Facebook posts and harassing phone calls.
♦ State representative, District 50: Republican Kerri Seekins-Crowe, who ran for the Billings City Council last year, goes up against incumbent Virginia Court, D-Billings.
♦ State representative, District 51: Chris “Shoots” Veis, a Democrat and former member of the Billings City Council, is an engineer who talks a lot about improving Montana’s infrastructure. He is running against Republican Adam Rosendale, a small-business owner in Billings whose father, Matt Rosendale, is Senate majority leader.
♦ State representative, District 52: Democrat Chris Goodridge is a self-described liberal whose Facebook page describes him as “for Billings not billionaires!” Republican Jimmy Patelis, a retired probation officer who moved to Montana because of a football scholarship at Montana Tech, says he is “pro-agricultural, support gun rights and the growth of education.”
♦ State representative, District 53: Former House member Dennis Lenz, R-Billings, defeated in 2014 by Jessica Karjala, is opposed by Democrat Jordan Matney, also of Billings.
♦ State representative, District 54: Incumbent Republican Jeff Essmann, former Senate majority leader, faces Tracy Heilman, a Democrat who is pastor of Columbus Community Congregational Church.
♦ State representative, District 55: Incumbent Vince Ricci, R-Laurel, is challenged by Democrat Ryan Arnold, a Skyview High School graduate who has lived in Laurel since 2010.
♦ State representative, District 56: Daryl Templet, D-Billings, runs against Sue Vinton of Lockwood, who has served on the Lockwood school board and is vice president of Vinton Construction. This is the seat that Tom Richmond held before jumping to a Senate race.
♦ State representative, District 57: Democrat Elaine Doerr of Nye challenges incumbent Republican Forrest Mandeville of Columbus in a district that includes part of the southwest end of the county. Andrew Forcier, a frequent commenter at Last Best News, is running as a Libertarian.
♦ Clerk of district court: Terry Halpin upset incumbent Kristi Lee Boelter in the Republican primary. Democrats recorded 1,164 write-in votes but have no announced candidate.
♦ County commissioner, District 2: Former Billings City Council member Denis Pitman defeated incumbent Jim Reno in the Republican primary. Democrats recorded 1,154 write-in votes but had no announced candidate.