Down to the Wire

By Beacon Staff

There are a few ways to look at the final results of the Senate District 3 Republican primary. Third-party groups who hoped to unseat Sen. Bruce Tutvedt viewed the incumbent’s victory as a loss. Tutvedt obviously saw the primary as a win, though a slim, white-knuckle win in a race where he was heavily favored.

And Rollan Roberts II saw something in between.

“When you look at the number of votes we received, I’m humbled,” Roberts said. “A few people expected us to get creamed, so I think our ideas won.”

Roberts elaborated on that assertion, pointing to “our ideas of following the Constitution, promoting freedom, defending private property and increasing parental choice and transparency in education.”

“Those ideas won,” Roberts said.

Tutvedt, one of the Senate’s highest-ranking leaders during the 2011 legislative session, squeaked out a victory with 2,147 votes (45 percent) to Roberts’ 2,076 votes (43.5 percent) in the June 5 primary. Many observers expected the Kalispell farmer to win his primary handily over Roberts, a political newcomer.

“I guess I’m happy with the result,” Tutvedt, last session’s Senate President Pro Tempore, said. “It turned out closer than I thought it was going to and it’s proof that negative mailers work.”
Tutvedt said a total of 10 negative third-party mailers were directed at him in the run-up to the June 5 election, along with radio ads. The mailers came from groups such as American Tradition Partnership, Montana Family Foundation and Taxpayers for Liberty. The senator said the mailers and ads contained misrepresentations and lies.

American Tradition Partnership, a Washington D.C.-based organization with coordinators in Montana, sent out a press release after the primaries declaring: “Montana’s American Tradition Partnership Sweeps State Legislative Elections.” The group said its favored candidates won in 12 out of 14 targeted districts, presumably meaning that Tutvedt was one of its only two losses.

ATP went after Tutvedt for an “anti-job” record and for voting for a bill pertaining to eminent domain for energy utilities, among other criticisms. Tutvedt said his jobs record is strong and speaks for itself.

Roberts said he had heard about personal attacks against him, including “some things on the radio and a mailer.” He didn’t get into the specific content of the attacks but said “at the very end of the race, there was a lot of misinformation about me personally.”
Roberts, the CEO of a company that develops formulas to boost the immune system, moved to Whitefish from Florida two years ago. In the following weeks, he said he plans to publicly release information about himself and his business.

“It will be letting people know about me, about my business, and helping them get to know me,” he said. “People make up things in the absence of information.”
It’s difficult to say exactly what impact the third candidate, Jayson Peters, had on the final outcome. Peters initially announced his candidacy as a Republican in the primary and then later withdrew from the race, though his name still appeared on the ballot. He wound up receiving 543 votes, or 11.4 percent of the vote.

“(Peters) clearly played a role,” Roberts said. “It would not have taken much for things to have a slightly different outcome. But once again, I still feel the results speak for themselves.”

Tutvedt moves on to the general election to face Democrat Shannon Hanson of Whitefish. Tutvedt is seeking his second four-year term in the Senate. He won the 2008 general election handily over Democrat Mark Holston and went on to rise quickly through the ranks of the Senate. He said Republican leaders are already discussing plans for the 2013 Legislature.

“We’re feeling good and we’re talking about leadership positions,” Tutvedt said.

Rep. Janna Taylor of Dayton won another closely contested Northwest Montana race, claiming 1,794 votes (45.4 percent) to Carmine Mowbray’s 1,634 votes (41.4 percent) in the Senate District 6 Republican primary. Mowbray, from Polson, was the incumbent.

As with Senate District 3, a third candidate took enough votes to impact the final results of a close race, though it’s unclear precisely what that impact was. Michael Larson received 515 votes, or 13 percent.

Third parties were also active in the Senate District 6 primary, with much of the negative attention focused on Mowbray, though attack mailers against Taylor were distributed as well.

Mowbray counted at least seven attack mailers sent out against her. The mailers, she said, “blatantly lied” about candidates’ voting records.

“I was dismayed that rather than using my voting record I was attacked with spurious deceptions and misrepresentations from non-legislative surveys,” she said. “There’s no way to defend yourself against these bullying third-party agendas.”

There are currently no Democrats on the ballot for the Senate District 6 general election, though the Democratic Party can appoint a candidate, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Craig McClure, a Democrat, originally filed for the seat but was removed for failing to file certain documents with the commissioner of political practices. Democrats are allowed by state law to appoint a replacement for McClure on the general election ballot. The Democrats’ central committee must return a certificate of appointment and $15 filing fee to the secretary of state’s office no later than 5 p.m. on Aug. 22.

Taylor, who is termed out in the state House, will have to wait to see if she has a contested general election.

“I’m looking forward to representing the people in Senate District 6,” Taylor said. “It’s been an honor to serve as a representative in House District 11 and I’m looking forward to continuing that work.”