Four days after St. Patrick’s Day celebrations rocked the block around Brannigan’s Pub, another party took place at the Kalispell bar— the first fundraiser and campaign kickoff event for incumbent County Commissioner Randy Brodehl.
Brodehl currently serves on the Flathead Valley Commission representing District 3, comprising the western portion of the county, with a term that will expire in 2024, making his campaign kickoff an unusually early move for a county race.
“I think that watching the last county commission race and seeing the opposition against a sitting commissioner, my gut feeling is that because I’m a conservative, they’re going to come against me, the same group or a similar group,” Brodehl said. “I think it’ll be an in the trenches fight.”
The three county commissioners serve staggered, six-year terms with an election in even years. In 2022, incumbent commissioner Pam Holmquist was challenged in the primary by three candidates. One candidate Jack Fallon, came within 40 votes of unseating the incumbent in the primary, and ran a write-in campaign against Holmquist in the general election.
Fallon was endorsed by Flathead First, a political action committee that raised roughly $100,000 to support moderate Republican candidates in the 2022 elections, which Brodehl alluded to. Flathead First also endorsed current legislators Courtenay Sprunger and Tony Brockman, who along with Fallon, have been criticized by the county’s Republican Central Committee.
While Brodehl expressed concerns over a primary challenge, he himself unseated a sitting Republican commissioner in his 2018 primary win over a four-person field. Brodehl earned the GOP nomination by less than 200 votes, before going on to win the general election over Democrat Tom Clark by nearly 25% of the vote.
A career firefighter since 1970 who served as Kalispell’s fire chief in the late 2000s, Brodehl was elected in 2011 as House District 9’s representative at the Montana Legislature. He served in that role until winning his seat on the commission.
In his five years as a county commissioner, Brodehl has cast himself as dedicated to keeping the government’s impact in Flathead County small.
“We continue to have a flat tax rate for our constituents, and I support keeping that,” Brodehl said. “By and large, the commissioners are going in the right direction. We’re a minimalist government for a county government, and I think we’re pretty solid in how we do that.”
Brodehl said he plans to focus on public safety and infrastructure in the county, ensuring they are adequately funded “with fiscal responsibility.” He pointed to an increase to the sheriff’s budget in the last fiscal year that was done while maintaining a flat tax burden.
“I don’t know if I can say I’m proud of that, but it was the right thing to do,” he said. “I intend to continue to support the sheriff, support what we do in the name of public safety.”
In the same arena, Brodehl mentioned the county’s dedication to saving for a new jail facility, citing a forthcoming need study that will shape the direction the commission considers for a future facility.
Brodehl also mentioned maintaining a commitment to voter integrity through the county’s election department, which he said should preclude another all-mail ballot election, which he voted against in 2020.
The primary election for the county commission will be held in June of 2024. Currently, while commissioners represent specific districts in the county, they are elected at-large, however, a bill progressing through the legislature, HB 360, would enable counties to opt for electing commissioners by districts
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