In Evergreen, Conservative Challenger Aims to Oust Brockman

Longtime Evergreen resident and freshman state representative Tony Brockman is facing a primary challenge from Lukas Schubert, an ultra-conservative 18-year-old who has garnered the support of the Flathead Republican establishment.

By Denali Sagner
Entering Evergreen sign on Feb. 23, 2024. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

There’s a lot that Tony Brockman wants to talk about — sidewalks, property taxes, the expansion of Reserve Drive, his memories growing up in Evergreen.

Brockman is a local public relations professional and 38-year-old Republican state legislator who represents Evergreen and north Kalispell in the Montana House. Born and raised in Evergreen, he’s an enthusiastic spokesperson for his legislative district, one that he believes has long been forgotten in Montana politics.

“The reason I ran two years ago was because I didn’t believe that my district had been well served in the Legislature,” Brockman said of his 2022 run for the Legislature, calling it a “put up or shut up moment.”

One legislative session and 16 bills later — Brockman carried more successful bills than any other freshman during the 2023 Legislature — Brockman is running for reelection. With a laundry list of political goals in hand, he’s eager to head back to Helena to represent the community that raised him, a community he calls “conservative, but independently minded.”

However, Brockman’s bipartisan politics have drawn ire from local Republican leaders, who are throwing their weight behind Lukas Schubert, a 18-year-old hardline conservative who they hope will take down Brockman in a primary election. Schubert has painted himself as a conservative fighter who plans to reject compromises with Democrats. He’s pitched a campaign around Brockman’s voting record, one that he describes as antithetical to the Republican cause, despite the fact that Brockman in 2023 voted with the majority of Republicans 96% of the time.

As Schubert and local Republican leaders gear up for an expensive fight to oust Brockman, the representative is prepared to defend his record and bipartisan political style.

Born and raised in Evergreen, Brockman graduated from the Evergreen School District and Flathead High School before going on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Montana. A politico from a young age, the freshman legislator served as a page during the 2005 legislative session, an intern in 2007 and 2009, and a staffer in 2011.

After college, he returned to the Flathead, where he served on the boards of the Evergreen Rural Fire District, Flathead County Sheriff’s Citizens’ Advisory Board, Flathead Food Bank and Flathead Area Young Professionals. He is the owner of Lone Pine Media, a Kalispell-based digital content development agency.

Brockman made an unsuccessful run for county commission in 2020, narrowly losing a Republican primary that went to current commissioner Brad Abell.

In 2022, he beat two challengers in a three-way Republican primary for Evergreen and North Kalispell’s state House seat. He ran on a policy-focused platform, emphasizing the need to bolster emergency services, strengthen community colleges and tackle infrastructure projects. His opponents, David August and Constance Neumann, campaigned on hardline conservative issues like eliminating mail-in voting and capping the amount of taxes school districts can levy.

Brockman won with 769 votes to Neumann’s 709 and August’s 480.

Facing no Democratic challenger in the general election, Brockman cruised to the Legislature where he positioned himself as a solutions-oriented, middle-of-the-road Republican who sometimes ruffled the feathers of the conservative establishment.

Rep. Tony Brockman, R-Evergreen, pictured in Kalispell on Feb. 20, 2024. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Brockman represented House District 9, which encompassed Evergreen and parts of north Kalispell. After legislative redistricting, Evergreen now falls under House District 8, which encompasses Evergreen, the neighborhoods around Kalispell’s Edgerton Elementary School, and the area from Whitefish Stage to Addison Square, and from Rose Crossing to the Flathead River.

In Helena, Brockman carried procedural bills that revised laws related to alcoholic beverages, advisory councils and appointed boards. Sixteen of his 25 bills were signed by Gov. Greg Gianforte.

In his capstone legislative accomplishment, Brockman secured $1 million to complete the construction of sidewalks along U.S. Highway 2 in Evergreen. The $1 million allotment arrived at the heels of $1.8 million received by Evergreen through the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

As divisions intensified within the Republican caucus last winter, the Flathead County Republican Committee rebuked Brockman and Kalispell Rep. Courtenay Sprunger for supporting House Resolution 1, a rules package that made it easier for legislators to pull tabled bills out of committee and put them back onto the floor for debate. Brockman and Sprunger were two of 25 Republicans who supported the bill, which hardline conservatives said would aid Democrats in bringing dead bills to the floor.

In a letter signed by eight Republicans from the Flathead Valley, conservative lawmakers wrote that Sprunger and Brockman “lack the same ideology” as the rest of the party and accused the legislators of “[creating] a divide in our party to reduce the power of our supermajority and in turn, help the Democrat party.”

Brockman responded that he disagreed “with consolidating power” and said that “our Constitution established a Representative Democracy, enshrining the idea that power should rest in the hands of the people.”

While Brockman left Helena in the good graces of the Gianforte administration and a bipartisan swath of lawmakers, his willingness to cooperate with Democrats irked the conservative establishment in Flathead County, which is now pitching a fight to oust him.

Meadow Manor Village in Evergreen on Oct. 9, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

An 18-year-old graduate of Glacier High School, Lukas Schubert says he’s running for office “to get a genuine conservative voice in the Legislature.”

Schubert is a Gen-Z conservative who openly disparages establishment Republicans — Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney, John McCain and Kevin McCarthy, to name a few — and rebuffs the idea of bipartisan cooperation.

Despite a historic Republican supermajority in the Legislature, as well as Republican control of the governor’s office and three of Montana’s four Congressional seats, Schubert says Montana Republicans are “tired of losing.”

“We want to win because we’ve been losing for so long,” the candidate said.

According to Schubert, “things still aren’t getting done” in the Legislature when it comes to limiting the power of the judiciary, restricting access to abortion and barring transgender minors from accessing certain types of medical care.

The lack of progress on these issues, Schubert says, is not the fault of Democrats, but of moderate Republicans like Brockman.

“We’ve been losing for so long, and we’ve been making these comical compromises with Democrats on our values,” Schubert said.

The young candidate said that, if elected, he would push for judges to be permitted to run with partisan labels — Montana has long had strictly non-partisan judicial elections — and would cut the state’s property tax rate.

Lukas Schubert (R), HD 8 candidate, pictured in Kalispell on Feb. 20, 2024. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Schubert is campaigning on four bills where he believes Brockman took the wrong vote on the House floor. Brockman joined 40 Republicans and eight Democrats to vote yes on House Bill 402, which would have created a means for Montana election officials to verify the citizenship status of electors. He joined 18 Republicans and all House Democrats to strike down a bill that would have allowed judicial candidates to run with party labels. Both bills died on the House floor.

Brockman also introduced House Bill 530, which revised port authority mill levies, and he joined 35 Republicans and 32 Democrats to vote down a bill that would require federal agents to notify a local sheriff’s department if they are involved in an investigation in Montana.

“I think that some of his votes on a lot of crucial bills have been poor,” Schubert said of Brockman. “Conservatives are tired of getting these majorities, winning in Congress, winning in the Senate, and then not having results delivered. So that’s why I’m in this race.”

Brockman doesn’t want to talk much about the four votes Schubert is highlighting. He’s proud of his record; one he thinks reflects the values of Evergreen and north Kalispell.

“I can guarantee you in the last month, six months, a constituent has not said, ‘We wish you were more conservative,’” Brockman said.

Brockman emphasized that out of 2,697 votes he took on the House floor in 2023, Schubert is campaigning on four of them.

In comparison to Brockman voting with his Republican colleagues 96% of the time, Speaker of the House Matt Regier voted with most Republicans 90% of the time; Sen. Keith Regier, 93% of the time; Sen. Carl Glimm, 90% of the time; Sen. Mark Noland, 92%; and Sen. John Fuller, 93% of the time. Even so, all of those lawmakers have thrown their weight behind Schubert’s campaign.

“If anyone is demanding that level of purity, they won’t even find it in themselves,” Brockman added.

Evergreen on Feb. 23, 2024. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Despite Schubert’s endorsement from the local Republican establishment, Brockman seems confident about his chances in the upcoming primary. The two candidates will face off on June 4. The winner will likely face Democratic newcomer Beth Sibert in the general election, as she is the only Democrat who has filed in the district.

Between June and December of last year, Brockman raked in $13,795 from individual donors, 62% of which came from within Flathead County. He also accepted $1,200 from political action committees, including the Montana Hospital Association, Montana Gas and Oil and Montana Prosperity PACs.

Schubert between July and December raised $6,286.65, 43% of which came from within Flathead County.

When asked if Brockman thinks Evergreen voters are looking for a conservative firebrand to represent them in Helena, he says the answer is no. He argues that August and Neumann’s failed 2022 campaigns are proof of voters’ priorities when sending a representative to the capitol.

“If that’s what motivated my constituents, they would have picked somebody else two years ago,” he said.

See a full list of everyone running for Legislature in the Flathead and Tobacco valleys here.

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