Nominations opened Thursday in Montana, officially kicking off the 2022 election season.
It may be the state’s most famous race for a new congressional seat, and campaign season is already in full swing. The new western region, known as District 1, returned to Montana with a population increase tracked by U.S. stats after the state spent 32 years with only one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The state’s redistricting commission settled on a map in November that largely followed the continental divide.
Democrats in this cycle will have plenty of ground to make up for voters, who handed over all five statewide offices to Republicans in 2020 by crucial margins.
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After submitting a request to Montana’s secretary of state Thursday morning, Cora Newman, the Democratic nominee for the new district, said she was satisfied with the chances for Democrats in the West. The county includes Missoula and Butte, two Democratic strongholds, along with a bloated Bozeman population that is going blue.
“It’s definitely an area we can win and I’m proud of that,” Neumann told reporters.
Newman said she is aware of the issues facing residents in the western region, such as lack of access to health care and affordable housing. Newman is a public health expert who ran for the Democratic ticket to the US Senate in 2020 before she and most other candidates dropped out of the race once former Governor Steve Bullock entered the field.
Olsovsky, the former Republican Representative and 2020 governor’s candidate, also arrived at the state Capitol Thursday to get his name on the ballot in his bid for Congress. He faces former Congressman and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, but Olshevsky on Thursday dismissed the idea that Zinke expected him to win.
“He’s the institution’s favorite candidate,” Olshevsky said.
Olszewski said he will try to present himself as a “winger” to Representative Matt Rosendel, the incumbent in the Eastern District who took 56% of the vote in the 2020 election. That means a focus on immigration, limited government and Second Amendment issues.
Zinke already had the support of former President Donald Trump. In 2018, Zinke resigned from his position in the Trump administration amid several investigations, and previously said he left the position in order not to distract. When Zinke announced his congressional nomination last year, he said he thought voters would dismiss those scandals as partisan attacks.
Democrats Monica Trannell and Tom Winter also announced their bids for the new district. Tranell is an attorney from Missoula and a former attorney for Public Service Commission employees. Winter is a former Democratic Representative from Missoula.
Rosendale, of Glendive, is seeking re-election in what is now the Eastern District. Democrats Jack Ballard, an outside writer from Red Lodge, Benny Running, a Billings city councilman, and Skylar Williams, of Billings, are seeking to impeach Rosendal in the Eastern District.
In statewide elections, District 1 and District 5 on the Public Service Commission are up for election as well as two seats on the Montana Supreme Court. PSC seats have a term of four years, and Supreme Court justices are elected for eight-year terms.
But the wrench was thrown at PSC races this year after a lawsuit challenged the counties as unconstitutionally disproportionate. The provinces have not been redistricted since 2003 and are unequal in population, in some areas by up to 50,000 people. The voters who brought the suit and Montana Secretary of State Christy Jacobsen agree that the counties are in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the one-person, one-vote rule. But federal judges have yet to decide whether courts should reset districts in an election year, as the plaintiffs have requested, or give state lawmakers, who by law balance districts, another year to do so.
The nomination process ends on March 14th. Montana’s primary elections are scheduled for June 7.
Circulation of ballot petitions initiated by citizens could begin in June 2021. Petitions for county election administrators are scheduled to be signed by June 17. County election officials must then submit petitions for the initiative to the Secretary of State by July 15 in order to appear on the November 8 general election ballot.