Juneau Wins OPI Race; Lindeen Elected Auditor

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Democrats held onto the statewide offices of superintendent of public instruction and auditor while the race for secretary of state remained close Wednesday.

Denise Juneau was elected state superintendent and Democrat Monica Lindeen won the race for state auditor.

Juneau defeated Republican Elaine Sollie Herman by a margin of 51 percent to 44 percent. Libertarian Donald Eisenmenger received 5 percent of the vote.

With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Juneau had 217,990 votes to 187,788 for Herman. Eisenmenger polled 23,175.

Democrat Monica Lindeen won the race for auditor and insurance commissioner with 53 percent of the vote, to Republican Duane Grimes’ 47 percent. With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Lindeen had 229,334 votes to Grimes’ 199,889.

Democrat Linda McCulloch and Republican incumbent Brad Johnson were in a close race for Montana secretary of state, with McCulloch holding 49 percent of the vote to Johnson’s 48 percent, with 96 percent of the precincts reporting. The Constitution Party’s Sieglinde Sharbono received 2 percent.

In pursuing a second term as secretary of state, Johnson touted his experience in that office, which he has held for almost four years. The secretary is Montana’s top elections official and the keeper of records required of businesses. McCulloch, who was a librarian in Missoula and Bonner schools and is finishing eight years as the state school superintendent, had attacked former Gallatin County business owner Johnson as ineffective and criticized his absences from some meetings of the state Land Board.

That board, charged with managing state lands to make money for public schools, consists of the governor, the secretary of state, the auditor, the superintendent and the attorney general.

Juneau already works in the state Office of Public Instruction in Helena, the office overseen by the state superintendent. She is the Indian education administrator. Herman is a Helena retiree whose background includes work as a teacher and investment adviser. She ran for superintendent in 2000, losing to McCulloch.

In the 2008 race, Juneau said schools need more money and must address teacher pay imbalances that have educators receiving considerably more in some parts of Montana than in others. Herman called for stronger basic education and greater care in fund allocations.

In the race for auditor, the state regulator of the insurance and securities industries, both Lindeen and Grimes brought credentials as former legislators.

Grimes, of Clancy, ran for auditor unsuccessfully in 2004 and Lindeen, of Huntley, failed in her 2006 bid for the U.S. House. In vying for auditor, both emphasized consumer advocacy, but they differed in their approaches.

Democrat John Morrison has served as auditor for two terms and was ineligible to run again.