Gianforte Releases Legislative Endorsements

The governor on Thursday endorsed 58 candidates for state Legislature, including Flathead Valley Reps. Braxton Mitchell, Courtenay Sprunger and Tony Brockman and omitting Speaker of the House Matt Regier

By Denali Sagner
Republican supporters wave a GOP flag at the Flathead County Fairgrounds in Kalispell on Nov. 8, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Gov. Greg Gianforte on Thursday endorsed 58 candidates for Montana Legislature, throwing his weight behind six Republicans in Flathead County while omitting endorsements of others, including Senate candidate and current Speaker of the Montana House Matt Regier.

The governor endorsed Sen. Carl Glimm for Senate District 3 (north Kalispell, West Valley, Badrock Canyon); Lyn Bennett for House District 4 (downtown Whitefish, Columbia Falls), Rep. Braxton Mitchell for House District 5 (Helena Flats, Badrock Canyon); Rep. Amy Regier for House District 6 (West Valley, Rhodes); Rep. Courtenay Sprunger for House District 7 (downtown Kalispell); Rep. Tony Brockman for House District 8 (Evergreen, north Kalispell); and Rep. Terry Falk for House District 10 (west Kalispell, Batavia, Kila).

“We need strong conservative partners to continue building on our successful pro-jobs, pro-growth, pro-family agenda. I’m proud to support these 58 proven community leaders who include experienced legislators, small business owners, farmers, ranchers, veterans, law enforcement officers, nurses, and educators. They share my commitment to make our state the best place to live, work, and raise a family,” Gianforte said in a press release.

Regier marked a notable absence from the governor’s endorsement list. The current House speaker is facing a primary challenge from Kalispell security company president Marquis Laude in an election to represent western Flathead County in the state Senate.

Regier, a four-term representative, emerged as a prominent conservative voice during the contentious 2023 session, in which the Republican caucus held a bicameral legislative supermajority for the first time since 1975. The speaker landed in the national spotlight last year after he refused to recognize transgender Rep. Zooey Zephyr, D-Missoula, following Zephyr’s comments on the House floor opposing a bill to ban gender-affirming healthcare for minors. Zephyr said that Republicans who voted for the measure would “see the blood on [their] hands.”

When asked about the absence of an endorsement in Regier’s race, a spokesperson from the governor’s reelection campaign said, “Governor Gianforte endorsed candidates who have been, or will be, strong conservative partners to advance his pro-jobs, pro-family agenda.”

“I’m proud of my record of steering the House through the chaos of the left,” Regier told the Beacon. “I really am just looking for the endorsement of the voters to go back to Helena and continue that fight.” 

Gianforte also declined to endorse Doug Adams, ImagineIf Libraries board member, in a race against longtime Rep. Dave Fern, D-Whitefish, to represent northern Flathead County in the state Senate. Fern’s tenure in the Legislature has been defined by bipartisan policy work. The lawmaker in January was selected by the governor to serve on a statewide property tax task force.

The governor did not endorse a candidate in the races for House District 3 (Whitefish, West Glacier, Polebridge); House District 9 (Somers, Lakeside, Kila); House District 11 (Creston, south Kalispell, north Bigfork); and House District 12 (Bigfork, Ferndale, Woods Bay, Big Arm). There will be competitive Republican primaries in House Districts 9 and 11.

Gianforte’s endorsement of Sprunger and Brockman landed in the midst of an ongoing conflict between the two lawmakers and local Republican leaders, who have chastised the pair for compromising with Democrats.

Sprunger faces a primary challenge from former school board candidate Shaun Pandina. Brockman’s challenger, Lukas Schubert, is an 18 year-old Glacier High School graduate who has questioned Brockman’s conservative bona fides and called his voting record “poor.”

Matt Regier has backed Schubert in his campaign against Brockman, stating that Schubert “will vote to move power away from the state government and back to Montana families where it belongs,” according to Schubert’s website.

Gianforte has made multiple visits to the Flathead Valley over the past year to celebrate legislation brought by Sprunger and Brockman.  

Sprunger said on Thursday, “I appreciated the chance to work with Governor Gianforte during the 2023 session on solutions for my district such as improving infrastructure through The SAFER Act (starting with an expansion of West Reserve Drive), increasing trades education, cracking down on fentanyl traffickers, and making it more accessible for families to adoption through the Montana Adoption Tax Credit. I’m grateful for the Governor’s endorsement and look forward to collaborating with him again; we have a lot of work ahead of us in 2025.”

“I’m proud to be among the proven conservative legislative leaders Governor Gianforte is endorsing. Last session, I worked with the Governor and his administration to reduce burdensome red tape, enabling more Montana small businesses to grow. I thank the Governor and his administration for supporting the Evergreen Sidewalk Project’s phase II funding,” Brockman said. “I look forward to working with Governor Gianforte in reforming Montana’s antiquated property tax system and achieving long-term property tax relief for Evergreen and North Kalispell property owners next session.”

Find out more about the candidates running for Legislature in the Flathead and Tobacco valleys here.

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Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to add a comment from Rep. Tony Brockman.