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Elections

PSC Commissioner Brown Announces Run for State Auditor

Brown is a private practice attorney from Beaverhead County and was elected as the District 3 PSC commissioner in 2020

By Blair Miller, Daily Montanan

Montana Public Service Commission chairman and former Montana Supreme Court justice candidate James Brown announced Thursday he is running for State Auditor this year.

“Having successfully served the last several years as President of the Montana Public Service Commission, a regulatory decision-making and consumer protection role similar to that role played by the auditor, I am uniquely suited to serve successfully in this office,” Brown said in a statement.

Brown is a private practice attorney from Beaverhead County and was elected as the District 3 PSC commissioner in 2020, defeating Democrat Tom Woods by about 12,000 votes.

In 2022, he ran for a Montana Supreme Court seat but lost the November election to incumbent Justice Ingrid Gayle Gustafson by about 38,000 votes in a race in which Brown was endorsed by several high-profile Republicans in a nonpartisan race.

In his state auditor campaign announcement, Brown compared his new campaign to the Supreme Court campaign – saying he is “stepping up” to run after being asked by people in Montana to do so.

“As Montana’s auditor and a land board member, I will work collaboratively with all parties to protect multiple use of Montana’s public lands, enhance funding for public education, and promote stewardship of state trust properties,” Brown said.

He also said he would work to defend consumers, investors, protect older Montanans from financial abuse, help with insurance in places where Montanans are being denied, and create regulations that are fair to small businesses and homeowners.

“As auditor, I will hold Montana insurers accountable for refusing to write property insurance in certain areas of Montana due to perceived wildfire risk,” Brown said. “Further, I will fight to ensure those with pre-existing conditions will receive the care they need, and ensure the zealous prosecution of white-collar criminals.”

A longtime attorney, Brown also holds degrees from the University of Montana and University of Washington. He is also a member of several associations and societies in Montana, and a board member of the Montana Council on Economic Education.

Brown and his fellow commissioners on the PSC, all of whom are Republicans, have been criticized in recent months for unanimously approving another rate hike for NorthWestern Energy customers in October that meant customers are now paying 28% more for their service than they were in August 2022.

According to state records, Brown is the first candidate to file for State Auditor for 2024. Current State Auditor Troy Downing is running in the 2nd Congressional District primary as a Republican.

This story originally appeared in the The Daily Montanan, which can be found online at dailymontanan.com.

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