Montana 2024 Primary Election: Results and Analysis 

Voters on June 4 cast ballots in competitive primaries for local, state and federal office

By Denali Sagner
Flathead County Elections Office in Kalispell on June 4, 2024. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Montanans on Tuesday cast their ballots in party primaries, deciding which candidates for local, state and federal office will move onto the general election on Nov. 5. The Beacon will provide updates and real-time analysis as results come in. 

For a full list of election results, visit the Montana secretary of state’s office website. 

House Speaker Regier Beats Laude, Moving onto General Election for State Senate 

Speaker of the Montana House Matt Regier beat security company president Marquis Laude in a Republican primary for state Senate. Regier garnered 67% of the vote (2,862) to Laude’s 33% (1,422). The current House Speaker will go on to face Democrat Link Neimark in November in a historically conservative district encompassing Batavia, Kila, parts of northwest Kalispell, Somers and Lakeside. 

Regier told the Beacon last month that he hopes to “represent conservative values” in the Senate and continue his track record of supporting “pro-family” policy and “small, efficient government.” More specifically, he hopes to eliminate income tax on Social Security and return the state’s 4% Lodging Facility Use Tax to counties of origin if sent back to Helena in 2025. 

The race between Laude and Regier was one of the most expensive in the state, with Laude pouring $71,000 of his own funds into his race against Regier as of May 15. Laude received the support of Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino and Conservatives4MT, a statewide PAC that spent roughly $240,000 in efforts to elect moderate Republicans to the state Legislature. 

Regier was endorsed by the Flathead County Republican Central Committee, but was passed over by Gov. Greg Gianforte in his April endorsements. If elected to the state Senate, this will be his fifth term in the Legislature.

Sprunger Fends off Conservative Challenger

Sitting state Rep. Courtenay Sprunger, R-Kalispell, fended off a challenge from an ultra-conservative contender in her bid for reelection to the Montana House, results show. As of 10:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, Sprunger had garnered 63% of the vote (848) to Shaun Pandina’s 37% (502). 

Sprunger was born and raised in the Flathead Valley and is the founder and CEO of a Kalispell-based public relations firm. She gained notoriety in the state House in 2023 for her work as a moderate, policy-oriented Republican, winning the backing of Gov. Greg Gianforte and carrying eight successful bills through the Legislature. Pandina is a local entrepreneur and former school board candidate. Sprunger says she plans to “advocate for a smaller government focused on infrastructure, education, housing and public safety.”

The win marks a victory for the moderate candidate who garnered the endorsement of the governor, U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke and numerous Montana elected officials earlier this year but was rebuked by the Flathead County Republican Central Committee for her bipartisan policy record. As of April 2024, she had raised over $60,000 in her race against Pandina, making it one of the highest-grossing legislative contests in the county.

Sprunger will go on to face Democratic candidate and Kalispell Public Schools paraeducator Arthur Fretheim in the general election. 

Byrne Beats Tracy in Republican Primary for Eastern Flathead County House District 

Retired Army Col. Ed Byrne beat former Bigfork School District Transportation Director Rob Tracy in a Republican primary for a state House district that encompasses Creston, Lake Blaine and eastern Flathead County. Byrne won 63% of the vote (1,636) to Tracy’s 37% (965). 

Byrne lives on his family farm in Creston. He is currently strategy committee chair of the Flathead County Republican Central Committee (FCRCC) and treasurer of the Glacier Country Pachyderm. If elected to the Legislature, Byrne wants to lower property taxes, end Montana’s policy of taxing seniors’ Social Security, “rectify” the water compact between Montana and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) and introduce legislation to protect property owners against squatters.

Tracy, a self-described “moderate,” said he hoped to rework the state’s tax code and ensure public education was adequately funded. 

Byrne received the backing of the FCRCC earlier this spring, which rebuked moderate candidates like Tracy. He will face Democratic candidate Jennifer Allen in November. In the deeply conservative district, however, it is likely that Byrne will handily win the general election. 

Debo Powers to Face Cathy Mitchell in Race for Northern Flathead County House District 

Retired schoolteacher and environmentalist Debo Powers beat independent filmmaker Guthrie Quist in a Democratic primary for a state House district encompassing parts of Whitefish and northern Flathead County. With all precincts reporting, Powers won 73% of the vote (993) to Quist’s 27% (363).

Powers is a retired teacher and principal who lives in a solar-powered cabin north of Polebridge. She works with conservation and environmental organizations, including the North Fork Preservation Association, Wild Montana and the Flathead National Forest Resource Advisory Committee. Powers in 2019 was appointed to serve in the Montana Legislature following the resignation of three-term Democratic state Rep. Zac Perry. She did not serve during the regular session in Helena, but worked to connect constituents to services.  

Quist is a local filmmaker, small business owner and real estate agent who is the son of 2017 Democratic U.S. House candidate Rob Quist.

If elected in November, Powers hopes to advocate for higher pay for teachers, as well as access to public lands and a clean environment. 

Powers in the general election will face off against Cathy Mitchell, a first-time Republican political candidate and nurse practitioner. Mitchell says she is running for the state House to limit big government, bring back economic opportunity, support gun rights and address the opioid and mental health crises in the Flathead Valley. 

The newly-drawn district, which includes parts of Whitefish and northern Columbia Falls, as well as Essex, West Glacier, Olney and Polebridge, may be favorable towards Democrats in November. 

Facing Insurgent Challenge from the Right, Brockman Loses Out 

State Rep. Tony Brockman, R-Evergreen, lost a bid for reelection to 18-year-old ultra-conservative challenger Lukas Schubert. 

With all precincts in Evergreen and north Kalispell reporting, Schubert won 60% of the vote (1,502) to Brockman’s 40% (1,017). 

Brockman is a freshman legislator in the Montana House who, like Rep. Courtenay Sprunger, R-Kalispell, gained the support of Gov. Greg Gianforte during the 2023 legislative session for his center-leaning policy work. The lawmaker carried 16 bills that were signed into law and helped to secure $1 million in a statewide budget bill to complete the construction of sidewalks along U.S. Highway 2 in Evergreen.  

Schubert is a 2023 graduate of Glacier High School and a Flathead Valley Community College student. He serves on the Flathead County Transportation Advisory Committee and is the secretary of the Flathead County Republican Central Committee. Schubert was backed by the Flathead County Republican Central Committee, which rebuked Brockman and Sprunger for their willingness to work with Democrats in Helena. Schubert, a first-time political candidate, received the endorsement of local Republican leaders such as Montana House Speaker Matt Regier and state Senators John Fuller, Carl Glimm and Mark Roland. 

He told the Beacon in February that the Legislature needs to make meaningful progress 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. If elected, he hopes to cut property taxes and reign in the power of Montana’s judicial branch. 

Schubert will go onto face Democratic candidate and therapist Beth Siebert in the general election. 

State Representative Tanner Smith lost in a Republican primary challenge to Gov. Greg Gianforte, the Associated Press called early Tuesday night. Smith, a freshman House member from Lakeside and a construction company owner, campaigned against Gianforte from the right, describing a need for “stronger leadership” and a more conservative executive in Helena. Smith ran on combating crime in Montana, lowering taxes and strictly regulating marijuana. Though Smith’s bid for governor was a longshot, he drew support from the right wing of the Montana GOP, which has quarreled with Gianforte in recent months over the governor’s policy planks and relationship with the Legislature. As of 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Smith had garnered 25% (45,488) of Republican ballots cast. 

“I appreciate that some news organizations rely on early vote counts. Our True Conservative base, people like myself, vote in person on Election Day. We will ride this thing out until the last county posts counts,” Smith told the Beacon at 9:18 p.m. regarding the AP’s call in favor of Gianforte.

Gianforte will face off against former firearms executive and Kalispell Democrat Ryan Busse in November. Busse’s campaign on Tuesday night leaned into Gianforte’s primary challenger, claiming that Republican voters who cast ballots for Smith “sent a clear message” to Gianforte that “the last three-and-a-half years have been a trainwreck under his failed leadership.”

Gianforte said in a statement: “This fall, Montanans face a clear choice. We can continue with our positive momentum and common sense conservative agenda, or we can turn the reins over to unhinged, unpredictable far-left activism that’s out of touch with Montana and will undermine our way of life. The choice is clear, and I look forward to continuing to meet with Montanans where they live and work to make our case.”

Republican Bozeman businessman and former Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy will challenge longtime Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester in a race that is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in the country. Sheehy, CEO of aerial firefighting company Bridger Aerospace, was recruited by GOP leadership to spearhead the party’s effort to oust Tester and regain a majority in the U.S. Senate. While Tester is the sole Democrat in the state’s conservative congressional delegation, he has maintained popularity with Montana voters, who have sent him back to Congress for three terms. While Sheehy has worked to tie Tester to the Biden administration and the political left, the senator’s campaign has leaned into criticizing Biden and focusing on Tester’s authenticity and rural Montana upbringing. Read more from the Associated Press here.

Rematch for Zinke and Tranel Set in Western U.S. House District 

Republican U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke and Democratic Missoula attorney Monica Tranel will face off for the second time in a race for Montana’s western U.S. House district. Raised in Whitefish, Zinke is a retired Navy SEAL and longtime elected official. He served in the U.S. House from 2015 to 2017 before being selected by former President Donald Trump to serve as U.S. secretary of the interior, a position he left amid scandal in 2018. Tranel is a Missoula attorney and former Olympic rower. Zinke beat Tranel in a close race for U.S. House in 2022, winning out over the Democrat by around three percentage points. 

The Associated Press called the 2024 primary for Zinke shortly after polls closed. He beat out primary challenger Mary Todd, who is a Kalispell business owner and pastor, with 75% of the vote to Todd’s 25%. Read more from the Daily Montanan here. 

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