HELENA – Democrat Brian Schweitzer has won a second term as governor of Montana, defeating Republican state Sen. Roy Brown.
The call was based on an analysis of voter interviews, conducted for The Associated Press by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International. Also on the ballot was Libertarian Stan Jones.
Schweitzer, whose national profile soared following a widely praised speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, campaigned on what he called a proven record of economic successes.
In making his case for re-election, Schweitzer touted increases in oil and coal production, job creation, homeowner rebates and a freeze on college tuition.
“I think he’s done a good job for the state,” said voter Rita Lasko, 59, of Helena. “He seems to be well respected throughout the West.”
Schweitzer emphasized his efforts on behalf of Montana to oppose implementation of federal REAL ID requirements. A Schweitzer campaign ad even featured the governor firing a shotgun at clay pigeons branded with a federal license.
The Democratic governor — an avid supporter of gun rights — received the backing of the National Rifle Association, although he was criticized by the group after he made comments in support of Barack Obama.
Brown, who frequently clashed with the governor during past legislative sessions, challenged Schweitzer’s record and argued Republican policies in place before Schweitzer took office were the real reason for the state’s economic gains.
Brown, a former small oil company owner, was often heard on the campaign trail saying he would do better than Schweitzer when it comes to boosting oil and coal production.
The two frequently sparred, and the tone of the campaign was at times contentious. Brown and the Republicans labeled Schweitzer a bully and pointed to an out-of-state speech in which the governor suggested to a group of trial lawyers that he tampered with the 2006 congressional race in Montana.
Schweitzer quickly apologized for the speech and said it had been a joke. Known for his boisterous style, Schweitzer appeared noticeably subdued after the controversy and promised that he was “out of the joke business.”
Helena voter Kirk Nelson, 54, said he picked Brown because he didn’t think Schweitzer had done a good job.
“I didn’t like some of the negative things I had read about him,” Nelson said.
Jones ran on a platform of reducing government and taxes.
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