Primary Races Take Shape as Filing Deadline Closes for Candidates

In Flathead County, four candidates are vying for Montana’s new congressional seat while three challengers are taking a run at incumbent commissioner Pam Holmquist

By Tristan Scott
A voter drops their ballot into a collection box at the Flathead County Elections Department on Oct. 22, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

As candidate filing drew to a close in Montana on March 14, a slate of primary races took shape in Flathead County, which also fielded four Republican contenders for the state’s newly designated western congressional district — Ryan Zinke, Al Olszewski, Mary Todd, and Mitch Heuer.

Although the candidates do not have to reside in the district in which they are running, the Republican stronghold of Flathead County produced four of the five GOP candidates who filed with the Montana Secretary of State to represent Montana’s House District 1 beginning next year. The fifth Republican is Missoula’s Matt Jette. Democrats Monica Tranel and Tom Winter, of Missoula, and Cora Neumann, of Bozeman, have also filed to run, as has Bozeman Libertarian candidate John Lamb.

Montana was awarded the second U.S. House seat starting in 2023 based on the state’s growing population in the recent U.S. Census results. The general election is scheduled for November 2022, but first the crowded field of candidates must tangle in June’s primary election.

Flathead County voters can also look forward to a half-dozen contested legislative primaries — all Republican — as well as a bid from three Republican challengers for the county commission’s District 2 seat held by incumbent Pam Holmquist. First elected in 2011, Holmquist must fend off a primary challenge from Republican Jack Fallon, currently vice chair of the Kalispell School District board, as well as Brian M. Friess, of Kalispell, and Jason J. Parce, of Bigfork, in order to retain the position. No Democrats filed for the elected position.

Two of the legislative primaries will occur in Senate District 4 between Republicans John Fuller and Lee Huestis, both of Kalispell, the winner of which will face Democrat Kyle Waterman in November; and in Senate District 5, where Mark Noland will square off against Rob Tracy. No Democrats filed for Senate District 5, so the winner of that primary will bypass the general election.

In the state House of Representatives, House District 3 incumbent Republican Rep. Braxton Mitchell, of Columbia Falls, has a challenger in Lorena Wood, of Kalispell. The winner of that primary will face Democrat Andrea Getts in November’s general election.

In House District 5, Republicans Lyn Bennett and Brian Owens, both of Whitefish, are looking to take on incumbent Democrat Dave Fern in November.

In House District 7, Republicans Dave Ingram and Courtenay Sprunger, both of Kalispell, will tangle in the primary race before the winner takes on Democrat Angela Kennedy in the general.

A crowded four-way primary between David Dunn, of Whitefish, and Terry Falk, Lynne M. (Ogden) Rider and Mark Twichel, all of Kalispell, will win the seat for House District 8, which fielded no Democratic candidates.

Similarly, a three-way Republican primary wins the seat for House District 9, as David August, Tony Brockman and Constance Neumann, all of Kalispell, vie for the position.

And in House District 11, a three-way primary between Devon Decker and Ronalee Skees, both of Kalispell, and Lakeside’s Tanner J. Smith will earn a seat in the state house.

Flathead County also produced three of the four Republican candidates vying for the No. 5 seat on Montana’s five-member Public Service Commission — Rep. Derek Skees, of Kalispell; Dr. Ann Bukacek, who serves on the Flathead City-County Board of Health; and Dean Crabb, of Marion, who joined the Republican ticket on March 14. Whitefish’s John Repke, a Democrat, also added his name to the list of candidates seeking a seat on the PSC, filing late on Monday afternoon as the deadline neared. He’ll face East Helena’s Kevin Hamm in the Democratic primary. There is also a three-way Republican primary race for the PSC’s No. 1 seat.

These filings and more are available to the public on the Montana Secretary of State website at sos.mt.gov.

Correction: An earlier version of this story omitted Jason J. Parce and Brian M. Friess from the list of candidates for Flathead County Commissioner District 2.

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