As Legislative Races Heat Up, Flathead Candidates Rake in Thousands in Campaign Funds

Ahead of a June primary and November general election, legislative candidates in the Flathead Valley have raised nearly $300,000. In some races where a sitting lawmaker faces a primary challenger, candidate spending has far outpaced previous years.

By Denali Sagner
A roll of “I Voted” stickers. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

As the Flathead Valley finds itself in the midst of a decisive election cycle, local candidates for the Legislature have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, with high-profile primary races marking the highest fundraising and spending figures.

Candidates for Montana House and Senate in Flathead County have raised nearly $300,000 as of April 15. That money has been poured into radio and television advertisements, fundraisers, t-shirts and yard signs. In some districts where a sitting lawmaker faces an insurgent challenger, candidate fundraising has far exceeded their previous cycles.

According to campaign finance reports, sitting Republican Reps. Courtenay Sprunger of Kalispell and Tony Brockman of Evergreen, as well as candidate Marquis Laude, have far outpaced their competitors in funds raised and spent. Sprunger and Brockman, both first-term lawmakers and moderate Republicans, face primary challenges from hardline conservatives who have chastised the legislators for their bipartisan cooperation. Laude, a first-time political candidate and security company president, hopes to unseat current Speaker of the Montana House Matt Regier in a race for state Senate.

Sprunger’s campaign for House District 7 has raised $60,265 from individual donors and political action committees (PACs), including the Montana Farm Bureau Federation PAC, the Montana Tavern Association Hospitality PAC, the Montana Gas And Oil PAC and Montana’s Electric Cooperatives PAC. Donors to Sprunger include Montana Republican Party Chairman Don Kaltschmidt, Flathead County Commissioner Brad Abell and the congressional campaign of Montana’s U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke. Sprunger has spent $42,769, reporting expenditures on radio and television advertisements, mailers and t-shirts.

Shaun Pandina, Sprunger’s challenger, has raised $13,270, which includes $9,985 in Pandina’s own personal contributions. The candidate has garnered donations from Sen. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, and Lake County Commissioner Stephen Stanley.

Arthur Fretheim, Democratic candidate for House District 7, has raised $2,120 and spent $380.

Brockman’s campaign for House District 8 has raised $42,780, bringing in donations from Zinke and Kaltschmidt, as well as dozens of local donors and a handful of PAC contributions. The lawmaker raised funds from the Montana Contractors Association PAC, the Montana Farm Bureau PAC, the Montana Action Committee for Rural Electrification (ACRE) and the MT Gas and Oil PAC, among others. Brockman reported $22,644 in spending, including on mailers and yard signs, website development and fundraising events.

Brockman’s challenger, 2023 Glacier High School graduate Lukas Schubert, has raised $17,606 and spent $4,914 in the same period. He has received donations from a handful of conservative state lawmakers, as well as Flathead County Republican Central Committee Chair Al Olsewski. Schubert also received a $300 donation from Republicans for Freedom, a PAC registered to a rental property in Columbia Falls.

Democratic candidate for House District 8 Beth Sibert has raised $4,438 and spent $1,955.

Money raised by Sprunger and Brockman has far outpaced their own fundraising numbers during the last election cycle. Over the same time frame in 2022, Sprunger had raised $23,646 and spent $17,724. Brockman had raised $21,750 and spent $3,113.

Laude has spent $44,983 in his fight to beat Speaker Regier in a primary for Senate District 5.

Regier is a four-term representative and longtime Kalispell resident who was elected House speaker during the 2023 legislative session. The lawmaker was the architect behind a number of anti-abortion measures, including LR-131, a failed 2022 ballot measure that sought to impose criminal penalties on doctors who did not “act to preserve the life” of unborn fetuses facing medical abnormalities. Regier has served on the House Appropriations Committee, as well as the Legislative Administration and Joint Health and Human Services committees.

While Regier was lauded by conservatives following a contentious legislative session last year, he failed to garner the endorsement of Gov. Greg Gianforte last week, who threw his weight behind Sprunger, Brockman and others.

Laude has pitched a policy-focused campaign, centering his message around public safety, lower taxes and support for charter and trade schools. Of his $46,285 in campaign funds, $40,000 came from his own personal contributions. Laude has spent $44,983 on campaign materials and other expenses, including $10,000 on nearly 200 30-second ads on Fox News network channels.

Regier has raised $13,775 and spent $5,012. The House Speaker has garnered donations from the Flathead County Republican Central Committee, which endorsed him in March, BNSF Railway, the Montana Electric Cooperative and the American Property Casualty Insurance Association PAC, among other committees. He received a $400 donation from Zinke.

Democratic candidate for Senate District 5 Link Neimark has raised $1,000, all of which came from personal contributions, and spent $411.

In the Flathead Valley’s only Democratic primary, House District 3 candidate Debo Powers has outraised her competitor Guthrie Quist, bringing in $12,875 to Quist’s $2,358.

Powers and Quist are fighting to represent parts of Whitefish and northern Flathead County in a newly drawn legislative district that political analysts see as competitive for Democrats. Powers is a retired schoolteacher and environmentalist who lives in the rural North Fork area. Quist is an independent filmmaker who gained political experience during his father Rob Quist’s 2017 campaign for U.S. House.

Powers has spent $6,487 on campaign costs, including promotional materials, bumper stickers and hats. Quist’s campaign has spent $1,813.

Cathy Mitchell, Republican candidate for House District 3, has raised $2,300 and spent $671.

A complete list of fundraising and spending numbers for local legislative candidates can be found here.

Party primaries will take place on June 4. The general election is Nov. 5. Read more about the candidates running for Legislature in the Flathead and Tobacco valleys here, and find out what legislative district you live in here.

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