5 things to watch in every state: Montana

Montana is such a weird state for electoral politics, really.

  1. Montana Gubernatorial election: The current Governor of Montana is a Democrat.  Democrat Steve Bullock.  This tends to confuse people who think that states like Montana and a few other states like to elect Democrats at the state and local level.  Bullock is running for re-election.  He is facing Republican Greg Gianforte.  Pretty much all of the rating groups, say that this rate is lean Democratic. The polling for the state shows s a close race between Bullock and Gianforte. It’s important to watch because if Gianforte wins the election, Republicans will hold the State Senate and State House in addition to the Governor’s mansion.  Bullock won election to the Governor’s mansion with 49% of the vote in 2012.  Barack Obama lost the state by 14 points at the same time.  It’s possible that Trump’s style dos not match well with Montana voters which could hurt both Trump and other candidates trying to hold onto his coattails.  This election is going to rely on Bullock to outpace Clinton in the state which seems likely but not guaranteed.
  2. U.S. House of Representatives, Montana’s At Large Congressional District: This seat is currently held by Republican Ryan Zinke.  Zinke initially own election in 2014 with 55% of the vote beating Democrat John Lewis by 55,000 votes.  Steve Daines won the 2012 election with 53% of the vote defeating Democrat Kim Gillan by 50,000 votes.  Sabato’s Crystal ball has this race as likely Republican and I tend to agree. Zinke would have to have Trump fail in the state or run significantly behind Trump at the statewide level.  His challenger is Democrat Denise Juneau.  Juneau is currently the Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction so she knows what it takes to get elected at the statewide level.  While I think Juneau is likely to get defeated, it seems possible that Juneau would be able to pull the upset.
  3. I-182, Medical Marijuana Initiative: Montana legalized medical marijuana in 2004.  It was later revised in 2011.  This revision limited dispensaries to only having three users.  This ballot measure would repeal this limitation and change the way law enforcement agencies interact with medical marijuana dispensaries. Polls are showing that the measure is going to be close (51% opposing the measure, according to the last poll I looked at).  But that’s a pretty close ballot measure.  I’m interested in watching how it fares, despite my qualms about having so many medical marijuana ballot measures this year.
  4. Montana State Senate District 10: Democrat Deborah Magin is running for this State Senate seat against Republican Steve Fitzpatrick.  The seat is currently held by Democrat Brad Hamlett.  He won re-election in 2012 with 51.1% of the vote defeating the Republican by 171 votes.  That’s a really close election, in which the incumbent held an advantage.  It looks like it is going to be a very close election in 2016, as well, and one well worth checking out.
  5. Montana State Senate District 25: Not really sure why this election for the district last took place in 2010.  Kendall Van Dyk, a Democrat, was able to unseat the Republican incumbent Roy Brown by 8 votes.  8(!) votes.  Can you imagine?  That’s really insane.  Anyway, Van Dyk was initially considered a potential candidate for the U.S. Senate but dropped out after his wife had their first child.  He is not running for re-election.  Since the last election took place in 2010, it’s unclear to me how the new state senate seats were drawn for the district.  Democrat Jen Gross is facing Republican Donna Huston in the seat.  If the district was redrawn to be slightly more conservative, then Gross is likely to lose but we shall see.
  6. Montana Secretary of State election: The current Montana Secretary of State is Democrat Linda McCulloch.  She can’t run for re-election due to term limits.  Based on previous elections, the Secretary of State in Montana flips control every other election.  So it would seem likely that the Republican Corey Stapleton could be able to win the election.  He is running against Democrat State Auditor Monica Lindeen.  They are nearly tied at fundraising, so it will come down to who can get the vote out on November 8th.  My bet is on Lindeen who has been elected but she’s going against party registration numbers so it could be pretty close.