A Look at the Primary Election Results

Congratulations are in order to Kim Gillan and Pam Bucy who have won their respective primaries for Congress and Attorney General.

But that’s not the only good news.

Republicans have nominated Brad Johnson for Secretary of State. Johnson has battled alcoholism for many years, has had a few DUIs, and has been in and out of rehab recently (in 2008, he even campaigned from a rehab facility toward the end of the SOS race last time). Notably, in the article reporting on his announcement for office, he was unable to state a single reason why the current SOS, Linda McCulloch, should be replaced. Not a good start. He also says that he currently works as a “consultant”, although it is unclear who, if anyone, is paying him for his consultations. The nomination of such a weak candidate is good news for Democrats and for all those who don’t believe in the voter suppression tactics frequently championed by Republicans.

In the legislative races, congratulations to Helena’s Jenny Eck, who defeated two primary opponents for the open seat left when Mike Menahan decided not to run.  Here are a few other interesting legislative results:

Incumbents Taken Out

Incumbents are difficult to defeat and are rarely taken out.  It’s a lot easier when that incumbent becomes a laughing stock on national television. DUI promoter Alan Hale was taken out by primary opponent Kirk Wagoner 863 to 813.  Birther Bob Wagner was defeated by Ray Shaw in Madison County 1040-991.

Crackpots Advance

In Park City, nutjob TEA Party hatemonger David Howard somehow surpassed his two primary challengers by a wide margin.

In Sanders County, TEA Partier Jennifer Fielder (here’s her flyer) defeated the saner Rick Seeman. Feilder seems to have focused her campaign on the fact that her opposent was at one time employed by the government.   GOPers have also nominated the legislature’s largest recipient of government funds, TEA Partier Janna Taylor, over Republican Carmine Mowbray for Senate District 6.

More Good News for Democrats

Brad Johnson isn’t the only good news for Dems.   In the Laurel House races, supernatural scholar Sarah Laszloffy defeated main streat Republican Debra Bonogofsky, giving an edge to Democratic candidate Sean Whiting for that seat.

Corporate Money Wins

A secret list of corporations succeeded in electing State Senate TEA Party candidate Dee Brown over Republican Bill Beck in the Flathead. The corporations behind the so-called American Traditions Partnership are fighting Montana’s clean election laws in the U.S. Supreme Court.  Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock is defending Montana against ATP in that case.  Meanwhile, another corporate front group with secret donors has purchased the Montana Supreme Court race for $41,000.  TEA Party Republican Jason Priest’s shadow group succeeded in advancing right-winger Laurie McKinnon over Elizabeth Best.

I’m interesting in hearing your thoughts on the primaries and your takes on other races I didn’t get to here.  Please consider this a primary election open forum.

Posted: June 6, 2012 at 7:29 am

This post was written by Cowgirl

59 thoughts on “A Look at the Primary Election Results

  1. Elizabeth

    Glad to see Beth Best lost – and the trial lawyers tried so hard. Looks like Sen. Priest was successful.

    Sorry to see Tony Belcourt lose.

    Wagoner will most likely vote about like Hale on most issues so no big difference there.

    Liberal leaning Taylor took out liberal Mowbray (from Koopman’s TAB report) – obviously the Dems would have benefited from Mowbray winning that one.

    Surprised at the margin of victory for Johnson over Aspenleider. Without the huge Dem turnout from 2008 returning, Johnson may pull it off.

    I suspect that Beck and Brown would vote mostly the same.

    Birther Bob won’t be missed by many.

      1. Dan T.

        Ray Shaw beat Birther Bob! Who that is, who knows. He can hardly be worse, though he could be equally bad.

        1. sNowWayter

          How about state Sen. Bruce Tutvedt-R squeaking by for his own seat. I guess next time the Teabaggers need to look somewhere else besides the M2M section of Craigslist for their candidates if they want to be taken seriously.

  2. Jennifer Davies

    Elizabeth you don’t seem to have the facts-there is no democratic candidate against Janna Taylor, so Montana repubs will again be represented by a giant hypocrite, which hurts all republicans by association . The fact that you are glad that out of state corporations were able to buy Montana’s Supreme court race really says it all.

    Finally the fact that failed SOS retread, who has lost this race before as an incumbent no less, really shows how terrible the entire slate of SOS candidates really was. It shows the GOP has given up on defeating McCulloch, as it should.

    1. Elizabeth

      Jennifer – I am well aware that there is no democratic candidate against Taylor. Cowgirl’s attacks on Taylor, along with all the comments, make it seem like the Dems wanted a more moderate person to be elected – that would have been Mowbray.

      I am pleased that the all powerful trial lawyers with all their money lost – whether that be to out of state corporations is mere speculation – unless you can list names that contributed to Priest’s organization. As Kailey says below – she is the only judge in the race.

      And finally, I would suspect that Johnson won on his name recognition. Not on his qualifications. He will win again if the Dems can’t turnout the vote like they did in 2008.

  3. Kenneth Kailey

    Please enlighten us and explain how Laurie McKinnon is a “right winger”? Did it occur to you that she is the only one of the three that is an actual judge – in fact, she was a District Court Judge for many years?

    I voted for McKinnon because she has ALWAYS put the law above ideology. That is the job of a judge and certainly of a Supreme Court Judge. Further, your attempt to make a connection between McKinnon and Jason Priest’s group is just silly. Didn’t you read the article you linked?

    “McKinnon said she has no affiliation with the group that sent the material and did not authorize it.

    “I have absolutely nothing to do with Montana Growth Network and did not authorize or contribute to their mailer,” McKinnon said.”

    I recognise that you wanted Best to win and I am sure you have your reasons but attempting to paint the actual winner as someone she is not is no different than the antics of the Bucy bots.

  4. Bozemanite

    How scary is it that Roger Koopman is the GOP PSC nominee. I guess this is a good thing for Vincent but it doesn’t do muh for my opinion of repub voters around here. Michael More is a loony tune and I’m not surprised he lost. He told a neighbor that he believes that we need the death penalty “in case exorcism doesn’t work. Sometimes death is the only way to separate the demon from the host,” he said.

      1. Hi-Liner

        Koopman would say, “That carbon was planted by scientists in a conspiracy to discredit the Jesus statue.”

  5. Dan T.

    How about the wins for Jenifer Gursky and Kim Dudik in Missoula! Gursky is running for the open legislative seat vacated by Sue Malek-D, who is running for Senate. Kimberly Dudik is an Assistant Atorney General who is taking on Militia supporter Gary Marbut.

  6. Missoula Dem

    It hardly seems fair to assert that Judge McKinnon purchased the Supreme Court primary when Elizabeth Best was the most highly funded candidate in the history of a Montana Supreme Court primary. The amount of money spent by the trial lawyers to place Best on the Court was the effort to purchase the seat. The fact the Montana electorate did not buy into that and voted for Sheehy (who had the least money), and McKinnon (an experienced District Court judge) is a win for our electoral system.

    1. Paul S.

      It’s my hope with such a high profile Senate Race (ranked number 2 nationally) and such a high profile governor’s race (number 5) that we’ll have the resources to generate record turnout in November. The smart money says that with so much going into this race, there will be very few undecided voters. That means the winning candidates will depend on voter turnout to put them over the top. I have heard that the dems will be doing an unprecedented turnout effort this fall, but we all need to get involved here and make sure not only that everyone we know votes, but that we all volunteer for the phone banks etc.

      1. James Conner

        I agree that turnout will be very important. So will reaching voters who lean Republican but who may be persuadable. Or to put it another way, there are three groups of voters: the choir, the unrepentant and irredeemable, and those who can be saved. Democrats should make an effort to lead the latter group to Jesus.

        1. Havre Voter

          I agree. Sometimes you see candidates who focus only on the base and don’t make an effort to find common ground where it can be found.

  7. Havre Voter

    Have to mention Wisconsin. I just got an email from Democracy for America with the following debrief:

    Right-wing Gov. Scott Walker and Citizens United may have won last night — but this was a step forward for progressives.

    Walker outspent Democrat Tom Barrett by more than 7-to-1 — and that doesn’t take into account the tens of millions of dollars that Republican Super PACs poured into the state.

    But despite the avalanche of spending, a people-powered movement kept us in the race — and DFA members were a powerful part of that movement.

    Members in Wisconsin knocked on over 140,000 doors and members across the country made over 200,000 calls in the final six weeks of this campaign. Thanks to that work, Democrats won back control of the State Senate last night.

    1. Norma Duffy AKA ILIKEWOODS

      Well Scott cant get his agenda across now, and that is a good thing. but unfortunately it is a double sword the Dems will have to stop a lot of BS bills and the GOP will capitalize on that saying the Dems are not moving the ball forward.

      Dems are gonna have to help create a mountain of bills that are likable to the public, and really step up to derail the garbage Walker already ran through into law. Thats what they can teach the democratic party though, to start being Lions and stop being sheep. That I will look forward too!

  8. Dave Skinner

    Never mind the mutual fiscal love shared by “only populist” Wilmer and Best — they’ve cut checks to each other.
    I’m glad Best lost, as one of the attorneys in that warmunist lawsuit seeking to preempt the Legislature, she’s clearly an activist of the worst sort.

  9. Elizabeth Best

    Mr. Skinner and others,

    I don’t mind an honest debate, but continuing the pejorative attacks on me as a “warmunist” for attempting to enforce the last session’s legislation concerning carbon capture and our Constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment is neither fair nor truthful. I am proud of having run a clean and positive campaign, focused on my qualifications as a lawyer. I didn’t violate the Code of Judicial Conduct, and I would have taken reasonable steps to stop any supporter of mine who engaged in negative and false attacks on my opponents. I stood up against attempts to make our judicial races partisan contests.

    I don’t recall you or the other critics on this or other blogs ever attempting to talk to me about my record.

    Thank you to all of the supporters of my campaign who weighed in on the facts. I am proud to have made a career of standing up for real Americans, and real Montanans, starting with my U.S. Army active duty.

    Elizabeth Best

    1. Kenneth Kailey

      Actually, I did attempt to contact you (your campaign) about your candidancy. I recieved nothing in reply to over four emails. My choice was made on the basis of the facts I was able to assertain.

    2. Dan T.

      I voted for you and am proud to have done so. Ethics matter. Hope to see you run again.

    3. Norma Duffy AKA ILIKEWOODS

      Thanks Elizabeth, I voted for you for a number of reasons. But your record and your career in the service meant you know us little guys well and would understand us better then the other opponents would have. Sorry it wasn’t you… The People of Montana are gonna miss a great civil servant!

    4. Dave Skinner

      Actually, Mrs. Best, our judiciary is an incredibly partisan entity, with races fought between two “parties” — the bar association and the trial lawyers. It’s all completely inside baseball. Races are funded by lawyers with business before the court system. Period.
      Finally, I seem to recall that the MCV/UM Law School “parents” case was rejected across the board by the Supreme Court as an overreach — the correct move on their part.
      That you would use “novel legal strategies” or whatever the terminology was for the campaign, to have these cases brought before the courts in an obvious orgy of forum shopping, the sort of crusading that short-circuits the political system.
      You and your co-council and the co-plaintiffs were trying to make law you couldn’t pass through the popular side of the political system. That’s dangerous, so I’m happy you lost.

  10. Jaxie

    CONGRATULATIONS to Pam Bucy! She will be an outstanding attorney general. Here’s hoping that all Democrats unite behind her in November.

  11. Fire Dog


    I requested a yard sign which I never got. No big deal, these things happen. Curiously, Big Daddy Cliff Edwards office was plastered with Best signs. It sent a message. While I voted absentee and did vote for you, had I waited I would have voted for another candidate despite your record of fighting the the little guy.

  12. Fire Dog


    I requested a yard sign which I never got. No big deal, these things happen. Curiously, Big Daddy Cliff Edwards office was plastered with Best signs. It sent a message. While I voted absentee and did vote for you, had I waited I would have voted for another candidate despite your record of fighting the for the little guy.

  13. coppertop

    Elizabeth Best’s loss is a sad, sad thing. She is an extraordinary attorney. Now we face the prospect of McKinnon takes Jim Nelson’s spot on the Court.

    1. Sam

      McKinnon who violated the judicial code of ethics by having a sitting judge raise money for her campaign. McKinnon who was bought into victory by Jason Priest’s group which says on its website- “our goal is to put republicans in office at all levels.

      1. Kenneth Kailey

        Why do you people keep repeating the same discredited meme? McKinnon did not ask Judge Swandal to request funds for her. The problem was his, not hers. Moreover, as I have already pointed out from the link Cowgirl herself provided, there is NO connection between Priest’s group and McKinnon. What he did, he did on his own without McKinnon’s knowledge or approval. Furthermore, Best raised far more money than McKinnon – much of corporate – and I find your assersions of McKinnon being “bought” simply idiotic.

        1. Just Sayin'

          Hey man, if piles of negative mailers didn’t buy elections, no one would spend such major amounts of dough on them.

  14. Mark Tokarski

    I just spent time at Open Secrets re Tester’s fundraising. Man, if he ain’t bought, he’ll do until the bought guy gets here. His top contributors or mostly banks and law firms, lobbying groups and real estate developers. They are not charities, and expect quid pro quo.

    Overall, Democrats are raking in more money than Republicans in Montana, 51/41, most of it in big lumps.

    These campaigns are nothing but money-rasising feasts to see who can get the most to buy the most TV time, and the one with the most TV time wins. Regarding his conduct once he is in office for six more years, it is the funders, and not the voters, who get hiss erious attention.

    It looks, if recent fund raising is any indication, that Rehberg is toast, as Tester is drowning in corporate money.


    1. Sam

      Thats because republicans are counting on the 3rd party corporate backed front groups like ATP to buy the elections for them. They don’t need to raise as much money. Dems have no such groups.

      1. Mark Tokarski

        It’ll be interesting to see if that happens. If it doesn’t it means that the money people are happy with JT.

        I suspect they are, but stand to be corrected.

        For all the times he’s been up for reelection, Baucus rarely faced serious money on the other side. The reason, of course, is that they had the man they wanted – Max.

    1. Rob Kailey

      I, too, appreciate the analysis, James. It would be interesting, however, to read your definition of “broader” in this context. I mean that sincerely. Is it just that the most populated counties went more heavily for Bucy? Is it just that more counties went for Bucy? Many of those counties could go to Fox in November. I’m certainly not trying to start an argument. What I am interested in is what your analysis will mean for the general.

      1. Havre Voter

        To me, it means Montanans got the primary candidate they wanted in most counties. It means a base level of support for taking on Fox in the general. Just my two cents. Interesting question.

      2. James Conner

        I use broader here in the sense that Bucy won by substantial margins in most of the state’s largest counties, while Laslovich’s support came primarily from his home base in the Deer Lodge – Silver Bow area, where he won by huge margins. Remove the home town factor by subtracting his margins in Silver Bow and Deer Lodge, and her margin in Lewis and Clark, and she would have won by 4,700 votes. He turned out to be a regional candidate with limited statewide appeal.

        Whether being the stronger candidate in a Democratic primary translates into being the stronger candidate in the general election is the question now before us. I just don’t have enough information to make even a half-informed guess on that. It probably will come down to how effective Bucy and Fox are in making their competing claims of “I’ll hang ‘em higher than anyone else.”

  15. Rob Kailey

    I’m almost surprised that there is no mention of the Republican race for SD 34 in this post. Scott Sales quite handily whooped Kurt Bushnell (a thought that is depressing at best.) The “Democratic” candidate is a wingnut Teabagger ratf*cker of the completely crazy variety, Mike Comstock. Comstock registered for the race as a Democrat only to keep the saner folks of Gallatin County from cross-ballot voting like we did to keep Sales from becoming a county commissioner here. This is the worst of all possible scenarios, and we don’t need to wait until November to call the race for Scott Sales.

    To any who haven’t been keeping current with Scotty’s greatest hits, he was the Minority leader of the Montana House lo about 7 years ago. That was the year that he, along with assholes Koopman and Sinrud, tried to split the Montana Budget bill, HB2, into 12 separate bills. That’s kind of Unconstitutional. They lead a revolt against Schweitzer’s budget which extended the term of the legislature, and caused Schweitzer to call a special session in December. Yes, that would be the session that Sinrud’s wife tragically blamed the Governor for making her feel like an Iraqi war widow. The very next session saw Sales voted into the House Speaker position. There is little to no doubt that Scotty will be a Wingnut leader in the Montana Senate as well.

    To those folks who hold, hope and pray that the insane antics of 2011 will lead to a sensible takeover of the Montana legislature, you have my sympathy. You will get none from Scott Sales.

  16. Rnov

    How about Maclaren going down in SD 45 after the NRA endorsement fallout? Also, Tyler Gernant proved once again that he doesn’t much believe in working his way up from the bottom. Gernant seems to think he’s a big fish in a small pond. Apparently voters disagree.

    1. Paul S.

      That’s a pretty big loss 57-41. What’s the NRA fallout? I haven’t followed this race. As to Gernant–Rep. Sue Malek was the incumbent and was endorsed by MEA-MFT. Doubt he expected to win given the circumstances.

      1. Rnov

        Sue Malek once asked in a committee meeting why birds shouldn’t be shot with leadshot. Then, she quickly corrected herself and noted that it was because then the deer would eat the birds and get lead poisoning. Tyler Gernant thinks he’s someone or something he’ll never be.

        McLaren NRA fallout:


  17. Paul

    Sue Malek had to ask in a committee meeting what a capital gain was. Wasn’t she on the Tax committee last session? How can anyone that has served two terms not know what a capital gain is? Oh wait – she is from Missoula and just votes how she is told to vote.

    1. Paul S.

      At least she asked instead of doing what the rest of those mental giants do and pretend to know what people are talking about. Sheesh.

  18. Cogburn

    My take on the Republican Primary:

    Brown over Beck – advantage wingnuts. Dee Brown is an unrepetent zealot of the worst kind. Beck is workable.

    Thomas over McClaren – advantage wingnuts. Thomas fathered the bastard child named deregulation. McClaren is thoughtful and honest.

    Taylor over Mowbray – advantage wingnuts. Taylor is an unthinking drone of the hard right. Mowbray is hard working and considerate.

    Scotty Sales – enough said.

    These four seats virtually ensure that a lunatic will be presiding over the Montana Senate in the 2013 session.

    As for the House, it is good to see that the two dandies (Hale and Wagner) will be looking for a new hobby. However, I see the Bozeman region has done a good job of reloading the House with a ressurectionist. Do not undedrestimate her, the filthy Family Foundation will issue a fatwah against Whiting. How can you be the daughter of the director without coordination?

    1. Sam

      I think we are in for another wing it session. Hold onto your hats folks. This is some of the pieces of evidence–the other is the list of bills legislators have already asked for. They are suspiciously overly vague like “generally revise education”–which allows them to hide their true intent.

    2. Rob Kailey

      No offense meant to you, Cogburn, but that was a depressing comment. I don’t follow the news from Ravalli County as much as I apparently should. I didn’t know Freddy was running again. But, having grown up with Fred Thomas, let me state with all eloquence, what a dick.

  19. lisa o'conner

    Congratulations to all the dem candidates that won, but also thanks are due to all who ran–for giving us a choice, for stepping up to the plate, and for fighting the good fight!

  20. Farmboy

    Im suprised Hill won the GOP gubernatorial nomination, I honestly thought they were going to nominate Ken Miller, but Ken Miller came in third, I would say that he is now done in Montana statewide politics or politics in general.
    Im not suprised that Bucy beat Laslovich, Im just suprised at how close it was. I think Bucy will beat Tim Fox in the fall.
    Im suprised the Republicans nominated Brad Johnson to be their sec of state candidate, he will lose overwhelmingly in the fall, so will Derek Skees.
    Ive got to confess to something here, Im not excited at all about Kim Gillian winning the Democratic nomination for congress. Im not suprised she won, but Im not excited about it, in fact I may vote for Danies, or I may leave the dam thing blank in the fall.
    Overall the only real race that excites me is our senate race, Im not suprised Rehberg won the Republican nomination, granted I tried to get him defeated in the primary but it did not work. I honestly think that is going to be a close race.
    Hmmmmm Bullock vs Hill I think Bullock has the advantage, he is young and fresh, whereas Hill is tired and old. Also Hill has alot of baggage, no question, and his real estate dealings will be an issue in the fall. Along with his lobbying after he left congress. I look for Bullock to be the next governor of Montana.

    1. lisa o'conner

      Agreed that Bullock can win, but with an unknown amount of out of state corporate money flowing into the state, and the American Traditions Partnership having eliminated the law that says you have to tell the truth about candidates in mailers and ads, it’s going to be a tough fight.

  21. Dave

    People are forgetting that there will be Libertarians on general election ballot. So there will be choices. I think the races will be pretty close, since a lot of people will be voting against Obama and therefore voting for candidates they know nothing about. Democrats will probably control the land board. The Republicans will control the PSC, and probably get control of the legislature as well. Let’s hope we can defeat folks like Rick Hill.

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