Montana held its first ever statewide all mail-in election yesterday. The Secretary of State’s office mailed approximately 600,000 ballots in early May after outgoing and term-limited Governor Steve Bullock (D) allowed counties to choose whether or not to hold the primary in-person or via mail-in ballots – every county opted to conduct the primary via mail-in. Ballots had to be received by 8:00PM local time last night. Approximately 381,000 ballots were returned according the Secretary of State’s office setting a new turnout record for the Treasure State.
Lt. Governor Mike Cooney has secured the Democratic party’s nomination for governor in a tough race against businesswoman Whitney Williams. The Lt. Governor had the full-throated endorsement of term-limited Governor Steve Bullock (D) and U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D). Lt. Governor Cooney has campaigned on his decades of government experience coupled with plans to protect public lands, lower costs of healthcare and prescriptions, and rebuild the state’s economy during this pandemic. His campaign had the support of labor and while he did not accept money from out of state PACs, he was able to raise more than $886,000. However, it will be no match for his Republican opponent.
Congressman and freshly-minted Republican gubernatorial nominee Greg Gianforte is a successful businessman who has already loaned his campaign $1.5 million this cycle. The Congressman defeated the state’s outgoing Attorney General, Tim Fox (R), and State Senator Al Olszewski (R), during this mail-in primary. Gianforte focused on job growth and the economy on the trail, backed-up by his own personal story of growing a business in Bozeman. This is his second time vying for the top office in the state – he lost to the Bullock/Cooney ticket in 2016.
In addition to a new resident in the governor’s mansion, the state will soon have a new top lawyer as current Attorney General Tim Fox (R) is term-limited as well. Republicans have nominated former Montana House Speaker and current Roosevelt County attorney Austin Knudsen. He has stated that one of the motivations of his run came when current Attorney General Fox opposed a ruling by a federal judge in Texas that struck down the Affordable Care Act last year. Knudsen has also focused on drug-related crime and pledged to work with the Legislature for additional resources to fight the state’s drug problems. Democrats have nominated Raph Graybill, who currently serves as Chief Legal Counsel to Governor Bullock. He has pledged to lower prescription drug prices, to protect public lands and public access, and to fight for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Want to know more about the Montana primary? Email Meghan Holihan