HELENA -- The Montana Green Party qualified for the 2018 ballot Monday, the final day for candidates to file – and three of its candidates immediately filed to run for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House.
A Libertarian, Rick Breckenridge of Dayton, also filed Monday to run in Montana’s high-profile U.S. Senate race, and an additional 56 candidates for the state Legislature threw their hats in the ring on the final day.
By day’s end, 309 candidates had filed to run for state offices in 2018, from U.S. Senate to state district judge to the Legislature.
The top race of the year in Montana will be the U.S. Senate contest, as four Republicans, two Green Party candidates and Breckenridge are gunning for the seat held by incumbent Democrat Jon Tester, who’s running for a third consecutive term.
Two Green Party candidates filed for the U.S. Senate seat Monday: Steve Kelly, a Bozeman artist and environmental activist who’s run for office before as a Democrat, and Tim Adams of Three Forks.
The contest for Montana’s lone U.S. House seat also has nine candidates: Incumbent Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte, Green Party candidate Doug Campbell of Bozeman, who filed Monday, Libertarian Elinor Swanson and six Democrats – including Bozeman attorney John Meyer, who unexpectedly filed Monday.
“As a hunter, climber, skier, mountain biker and public lands attorney, I am well-situated to represent Montana in Congress,” Meyer said in a statement.
Two Supreme Court justices up for election this year – Beth Baker and Ingrid Gustafson, who was recently appointed to the court by Gov. Steve Bullock – did not draw an opponent.
The Green Party made the ballot by turning in more than 5,000 signatures of registered voters last week. Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, the state’s top election official, announced Monday morning that enough signatures had been validated for the party to allow its candidates to file this year and in 2020.
Dani Breck, state coordinator for the Green Party, told MTN News Monday that mainstream-party candidates seldom “step outside their comfort zone” to address voter concerns on issues like global warming, socio-economic conditions or increased militarization in the world.
The Green Party offers an alternative for people who care about those and other issues, she said.
“There is a huge percentage of voters, they simply don’t vote, because they don’t feel like there is an option for them,” Breck said. “We’re really trying to engage the non-voters and get them out to the polls.”
Three Green Party candidates also filed Monday to run for the Legislature.
Democratic legislative leaders said Monday they’ve recruited an energetic, broad slate of candidates they believe can challenge Republicans’ majority at the Legislature – particularly in the House, where the GOP has a 59-41 majority.
House Minority Leader Jenny Eck, D-Helena, said it’s not unrealistic to think Democrats could pick up 10 seats in the House, and if they do, they’ll undo “the brutal, drastic and heartless budget cuts” imposed by Republicans last year, pass an infrastructure-funding package and pass tax legislation that makes the “ultra-wealthy and out-of-state corporations” pay their fair share.
Republicans control a 32-18 majority in the state Senate.
Debra Lamm, chair of the state Republican Party, scoffed at the idea of Democrats picking up multiple seats in legislative races this year, telling MTN News there is “no way” the GOP will lose its majorities.
“I think right now with the popularity of (President Trump) and his high ratings in the state, I would think we would be gaining some seats,” she said.
Voters will recognize that Republicans are responsible for cutting federal taxes and relaxing regulations on business, such as the coal industry, Lamm said.
“We’ve got some great candidates,” she said. “We’ve got some great new faces and a lot of enthusiasm.”