HELENA – Montana voters on Tuesday were choosing party nominees for governor, U.S. Senate and House and a slate of other offices in a primary election that was changed to all-mail balloting to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.
The Republican and Democratic elections for governor topped the list of competitive races in the Montana primary, which featured five open statewide offices with elected officials either termed out or deciding to run for a different position.
Republicans are seeking to end 16 consecutive years with a Democrat in the governor’s office when current Gov. Steve Bullock completes his second term. U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte and state Attorney General Tim Fox were competing in the Republican primary to take on the winner of the Democratic race between Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney and first-time candidate Whitney Williams.
For Gianforte, a former technology entrepreneur who was first elected to Montana’s only House seat in 2017, it’s his second run for governor. He lost to Bullock in 2016. Fox is ending his second term as attorney general, a post he won in a landslide in 2016, and he successfully battled colon cancer two years ago.
Cooney, a former legislator and secretary of state, has campaigned on building on the successes of Bullock’s tenure. Williams, a businesswoman who is the daughter of former U.S. Rep. Pat Williams and former state Sen. Carol Williams, has drawn on her deep political connections and fundraising experience to build a strong campaign that’s challenged Cooney.
Bullock was expected to defeat first-time candidate John Mues for the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines. That race is expected to have a high national profile in the fight for party control of the Senate.
Four Republicans, including State Auditor Matt Rosendale and Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, were competing for the party nomination for Gianforte’s open House seat. Former state Rep. Kathleen Williams, who lost to Gianforte in 2018, is seeking the Democrats’ House nomination again, this time against state Rep. Tom Winter.
Rosendale’s and Stapleton’s open seats have led to competitive Republican primaries. Two Democrats and two Republicans are competing for their parties’ nominations to succeed the termed-out Fox as attorney general.
Three names will be on the Democratic primary ballot for president, though former Vice President Joe Biden is the only active remaining candidate. The others, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, previously dropped out and endorsed Biden. President Donald Trump is the only candidate on the Republican ballot.
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