In Flathead County Senate Race, House Speaker Faces Security Company President  

Speaker of the Montana House Matt Regier and security company president Marquis Laude will square off in a June 4 Republican primary for a newly drawn state Senate district that encompasses Batavia, Kila, Somers, Lakeside and parts of Kalispell

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

Speaker of the Montana House Matt Regier will face off against security company president Marquis Laude in the Republican primary for a state Senate district encompassing parts of western Flathead County. Regier is making his first run for state Senate after four terms in the House, where he defined himself as a leading conservative voice and a staunch, anti-abortion lawmaker. Laude is embarking on his inaugural run for office after a long career in the U.S. Army, the private security industry and the volunteer arm of the Flathead County Sheriff’s Department.

Senate District 5 encompasses western Flathead County, including Batavia, Kila, parts of northwest Kalispell, Somers, Lakeside and the areas around Blacktail Mountain and Smith Lake. A deep red district, Senate District 5 voters in 2020 favored the Republican candidates for attorney general with 73% of the vote, governor with 68% of the vote and president with 70% of the vote.

The race between Regier and Laude has shaped up to be one of the most expensive in Flathead County, with Laude spending nearly $69,000 in his efforts to defeat Regier. Of the $77,655 brought in by Laude, $71,000 of his came from his own personal contributions. Among Laude’s campaign expenses were $10,000 in ads on Fox News network channels and thousands of mailers.

Regier has raised $21,675 and spent $13,011, including donations from BNSF Railway, the Montana Electric Cooperative, the American Property Casualty Insurance Association PAC and Republican U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke. While Regier has garnered the endorsement of the Flathead County Republican establishment, he failed to earn the support of the governor earlier this spring.

The winner of the June primary will go on to face Democrat Link Neimark in November; however, the district’s red tilt means the winner of the Republican primary will likely head to the state Senate next year.

Regier was born and raised in Kalispell, graduating from Flathead High School and later the University of Montana, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in marketing. He has served four terms in the Montana House, the limit for lawmakers to serve consecutively in one chamber. His legislative tenure has been spent alongside his father, Sen. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, and sister, Rep. Amy Regier, R-Kalispell. He is a real estate investor and the owner of Stillwater Sod Corporation.

The lawmaker describes himself as a fighter for conservative values and has criticized the “liberal media” and “the radical Left.” He told the Beacon he is running for Senate to “represent conservative values” and continue his proven track record of supporting “pro-family” policy and “small, efficient government.”

Laude moved to Kalispell in 2000 after a long career in law enforcement. He joined the Army at 17, becoming a military police officer and eventually a special agent working on investigations into terrorism. According to Laude’s resume, he served as a bodyguard for former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

After his retirement from the military, he went into the private security sector, founding Integrated Security Solutions in 2000. Based in Kalispell, Integrated Security Solutions provides electronic and physical security infrastructure for large clients and employs 140 local workers. Laude said the company has provided security for the Hoover Dam, Glacier High School, Hungry Horse Dam and former Afghan President Hamid Karazai’s personal home.

In addition to his work in the private security industry, Laude serves as a member of the Flathead County Sheriff’s Posse, a volunteer arm of the sheriff’s office that assists with large community events. Laude has worked with Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino, a close friend, to formalize and develop the posse, elevating it from its once small status in the department.

Regier’s tenure as House Speaker was defined by debates over a bill to ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors and ensuing conflict over the legislation on the House floor. The Speaker censured transgender Rep. Zooey Zephyr, D-Missoula, following Zephyr’s comments that lawmakers who supported the bill would have “blood on their hands.”

Regier was also the architect of a number of anti-abortion bills, including a ban on dilation-and-evacuation abortions and LR-131, a failed ballot measure that sought to impose criminal penalties on healthcare providers who declined to provide lifesaving care to infants, even those who were found to have fatal medical abnormalities.

The lawmaker believes abortion policy “erroneously has moved to the courtroom” as the Montana Supreme Court has blocked a number of anti-abortion bills in recent years.

When asked about the conflicts over social policy that defined the 2023 Legislature, Laude said, “I treat a person like a person. It doesn’t matter by race, creed, color, gender, or change of gender. They’re a person.”

While he was raised “pro-life,” he said he does not feel that he is “qualified to make certain decisions about the needs for medical attention.”

Laude believes his skills as a business owner and background in public safety will position him well to serve in the Legislature. He said voters are frustrated by rising property taxes, increased immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border and growth in the Flathead Valley.

While the state offers valuable social programs, Laude said it has been beset by “wasteful spending,” such as the $1.8 million renovation of the capitol building in Helena. If elected, he hopes to reconfigure Montana tax code to alleviate the burden on primary homeowners.

Though Laude is concerned about the cost of social programs, he is favorable toward Medicaid expansion, which increases the number of Montanans who are eligible for Medicaid coverage, saying that it “works really well.”

According to the state Department of Public Health and Human Services, over 132,000 Montanans lost Medicaid coverage between April 2023 and January 2024.

A map of Montana Senate District 5. Courtesy of the Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission.

“If you take some of the smaller businesses that are just starting out, that’s a help for them,” he said of Medicaid expansion. “The families can come in, they can get employment, earn a wage … they can succeed through this program, graduate from the program proudly, and then move on in life. That’s what this program is designed for.”

Per a recent report conducted by healthcare consulting firm Manatt Health, Medicaid expansion brought $900 million into Montana in 2022 and created over 7,500 jobs. For about every $4 of federal spending, the state spends $1.

Regier said that while he believes traditional Medicaid is an important safety net, Medicaid expansion is costly and unnecessary.

“I am for a safety net, a government safety net. We have that with traditional Medicaid,” he said. “I am not in favor of more welfare. I think the sign of a good welfare program is when you can work to get everybody off of it. A bad sign is when you’re trying to keep everybody on it longer.”

He also opposes Medicaid being used to pay for abortions.

If elected to the Senate, Regier plans to eliminate income tax on Social Security and return the state’s 4% Lodging Facility Use Tax to the counties of origin, instead of its current allocation into the General Fund and other statewide accounts.  

“That should go back to the cities and counties where the tourists are putting a strain on the infrastructure,” he said of the lodging tax.

Regier hopes to introduce legislation criminalizing undocumented immigration in Montana, citing similar laws in Texas, Iowa and Florida.

Texas last year passed a law that permits state police to arrest individuals for illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Under the law, a person can be charged with a misdemeanor if law enforcement believes they have evidence that the person illegally crossed the border. The law is currently blocked by a federal appeals court. Iowa last month passed a similar bill that makes illegal immigration into Iowa a state crime. While the bill is set to go into effect July 1, it may face similar legal challenges to the Texas legislation. 

Laude, too, said he will work with lawmakers to make it illegal for undocumented immigrants to be in the state of Montana.

“If the administration isn’t going to shut the border, what can we do as a state to create policy to make it impossible or fineable or punishable to come into this state?” he said.

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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Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include the most recent campaign finance filing numbers.