Senate District 4: Primary Features Republican Contest Between Fuller, Huestis

Veteran lawmaker John Fuller faces Lee Huestis, who both seek to replace termed-out Sen. Mark Blasdel

By Maggie Dresser
The Montana State Capitol building in Helena. Beacon file photo

A trio of candidates is seeking to represent the residents of Senate District 4 in central Kalispell in the Montana Legislature next session as longtime Republican lawmaker Mark Blasdel reaches his term limits and cannot run again.

Only the two Republican candidates have a competitive primary race, however, as the lone Democrat in the race, Kyle Waterman, has no opponent on June 7 and automatically advances to the general election next November.

That’s not the case for John Fuller, who currently represents House District 8 in the Montana Legislature, nor for Lee Huestis, who has never run for office. Both candidates are running on similar conservative platforms that center on their pro-life stances and support for public land preservation and economic development.

Fuller, 75, has served in the 2019 and 2021 legislative sessions as a member of the state House of Representatives after teaching American government, history and economics for 45 years.

He’s running for re-election on the heels of a busy 2021 session, during which Fuller was a co-sponsor of four anti-abortion bills that limited access for women seeking the procedure. He also sponsored a house bill requiring interscholastic athletes participate under their gender assigned at birth, and he was the co-sponsor for a vaccine freedom bill and four voter integrity bills.

“My priorities for the next Legislature is safeguarding the role of parents in their children’s education and advocating for pro-life,” Fuller said. “I believe every life is sacred.”

Huestis, 56, is a math teacher at Flathead High School and is also a “pro-life” advocate and believes women should be better informed when making decisions.

“Why isn’t life the first choice?” Huestis said. “We as a community need to somehow take control of that fear and somehow take control to help the young ladies that are making those decisions and support them.”

Preserving public lands is another of Huestis’ main priorities and he wants to ensure hunting rights are protected.

“Our public lands are the most valuable asset that we have,” Huestis said.

Fuller, too, says public lands are high on his priority list.

As a Vietnam War veteran, Fuller advocates for veteran services, including healthcare and job opportunities. He sponsored a bill to exempt veterans from Montana State income taxes and another to establish a veteran’s cemetery in northwest Montana.

In the upcoming 2023 legislative session, Fuller sees attainable housing, workforce development, inflation, rising crime, rising mental health issues and high suicide rates as the most pressing issues.

Huestis is also concerned about increased mental health issues in Montana. He supports first responders and law enforcement and believes in public safety and security.

“Anyone who puts their life on the line, we need to step up and respect what they do and let them know we are backing them financially and emotionally,” Huestis said.

Economic opportunities are also important to Huestis, and he hopes to see Montana’s workforce developed to help businesses grow while creating high wage jobs.

“I want to make sure Helena respects us,” Huestis said. “I want to make sure we have economic opportunities and with my conservative background, roots and education, I know what works.”