House District 5: Two Republicans Square Off in Whitefish Primary

The winner of the GOP primary will face incumbent Democrat Dave Fern in the general election this fall

By Tristan Scott
The Montana State Capitol building in Helena. Beacon file photo

A Republican primary race has taken shape in the Flathead Valley’s only legislative district to reliably elect a Democrat for the past decade, with the winner of the June 7 primary advancing to the general election this fall to take on incumbent Rep. Dave Fern, who has no challengers.

As Fern campaigns to retain the seat he first won in 2016, the two Republican candidates who hope to challenge him are Brian Owens, a retired Marine and state public defender, and Lyn Bennett, a board member on the Flathead County Republican Women and president of the Glacier Country Pachyderm.

For Owens, his bid for the legislative position marks his first foray into the public spotlight even though he’s spent more than two decades serving his country in the U.S. Marine Corps and the Army. His family decided to settle down in Whitefish after a 21-year military career that took his wife and daughter around the world, including deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“When we were deciding where we wanted to plant our roots, we chose Montana as a place where we could rest after moving every two years and living in different countries,” Owens said in an interview. “And because our daughter is going into high school in the fall we really wanted her to get a hometown experience. But the more I learned after moving here a year and a half ago, the more I felt compelled to serve again.”

Bennett said she was unable to schedule time for a phone interview in the week leading up to the Beacon’s print deadline on May 9 due to a busy schedule. 

According to Bennett’s website, lynbennettforwhitefish.com, she is “pro-family, pro-life and pro-parental rights.”

“Our family chose to settle in Montana over twelve years ago. Whitefish is our home,” according to the “about” page on Bennett’s website. “Whether I was working for the Clerk of Court’s office, in my first job, or using my Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing to practice as a nurse in a variety of settings, service has been a way of life for me and for my family. My husband of over 27 years is a retired Naval Officer. Together, we have homeschooled three wonderful daughters.”

Owens said his support of individual constitutional freedoms protected by both the First Amendment and Second Amendment are central to his candidacy, as is the need for limited government and parental involvement in schools.

“I’m for greater parental involvement in schools because I want to know what my daughter is being taught and how it’s being taught,” Owens said. “Having moved every few years, she has been in different schools in different states, and math isn’t taught the same way in every school. It’s about wanting to know what she is being taught and being involved in it.”

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