ANALYSIS: Voters Reject TEA Party Wing in Most GOP Primaries

TEA Partier

An initial scan of key GOP primaries this morning shows voters rejecting the TEA Party wing in favor of moderates in most races, especially the house.  Here’s a rundown.  It’s way too early to make any predictions about what this means for the makeup of the legislature in general.

See a race I missed?  Add it in the comments.


HD1: TEA Partier Steve Gunderson beat Bill Clark in Libby.

HD 11: TEA Party poster boy Derek Skees of Kalispell is leading primary opponent Jean Barran. The former TEA Party Republican legislator and nullification nutjob from the Flathead who proudly marched in a Memorial day parade wearing the confederate flag.


HD 14: TEA Partier Charlie Woolley lost to Denley Loge, in spite of the fact that Sanders County TEA Partier Jennifer Fielder endorsed Woolley.

HD17: Ross Fitzgerald of Fairfield handily bested right-wing challengers David Brownell and Charlie Brown in this open seat.

HD18: The popular Rep. Rob Cook beat right-wing GOPer Ann Morren, the second time he has done so.

HD19: Rep. Wendy McKamey of Great Falls creamed TEA Party nutjob and Agenda 21 conspiracy theorist Rep. Randy Pinocci, who was busted playing video games during legislative work sessions and introduced a bill to require drug testing for seniors who can’t afford food.

HD20: Moderate Frederick Anderson beat TEA Partier Sheridan Buck.

HD 22: Known TEA Party right winger Cleve Loney, who leads a creepy effort that is trying to keep abused kids with abusers, lost to newcomer Lola Sheldon Gallaway.

HD27: TEA Partier Darold Hutchinson lost to James O’Hara open seat held by outgoing Rep. Roy Hollandsworth, a moderate.

HD35: Moderate Joel Krater lost to TEA Party Rep. Scott Staffanson, who represents the GOP’s torpid wing.

HD36: Former Rep. Edward Hilbert, a Montana highway patrolman, lost to TEA Party wingnut Rep. Alan Doane, who is worried about an Obama conspiracy to confiscate ammunition.

HD40: TEA Partier Barry Usher won a three-way primary for the seat vacated by moderate Republican Tom Berry.

HD67: Michael Houghton did not campaign against TEA Partier Rep. Tom Burnett, who believes the state wouldn’t need money to treat mental illness if it were not for porn.

HD68: TEA Partier  Art Wittich, who was convicted of corruption, was ousted moderate Bruce Grubbs.

HD69: Moderate Walt Sales beat TEA Partier Phil Olson in the race for seat TEA Partier Monforton dropped out of once he learned two GOPers were running against him.

HD71: Moderate Rep. Ray Shaw of Sheridan beat TEA Party birther Bob Wagner for the third time.

HD72: TEA Partier Brooke Erb lost to Tom Welch in this Dillon house seat held by Rep. Jeff Welborn, who’s running for the Senate.


SD 3: TEA Partier Keith Regier, who compares women to cattle, defeated challenger Don Kaltschmidt.

SD 7: TEA Partier Jennifer Fielder defeated her primary opponent.

SD10: Moderate Rep. Steve Fitzpatrick of Great Falls brutally trounced TEA Partier JC Kantorowicz.

SD15: Hertha Lund lost to TEA Partier Ryan Osmundson.


SD 26: Moderate Don Roberts won his three-way GOP Primary.

SD36: Moderate Rep. Jeff Wellborn beat TEA Partier Dale Stewart. Apparently having the support of Senate President Debby Barrett doesn’t mean much, since voters rejected her pick in favor of Wellborn.

SD 40: Terry Gauthier beat white supremacist candidate Drew Turiano.


Several primaries weren’t about the moderate vs TEA Party battle:

SD18: Pro-infrastructure candidate Steve Hinebauch beat two other pro-infrastructure candidates in the race to fill TEA Partier Matt Rosendale’s seat, since Rosendale is running for state auditor.

SD28: Mark Morse lost to incumbent Tom Richmond.  This race was more about Morse’s criminal record.

The GOP also undertook to defraud voters in races like HD 13, where Sanders County GOP Chair (of the TEA Party wing) Gerald Cuvillier filed as a Democrat but lost to actual democratic candidate Debra Achatz in the primary.

In Billings HD 45, Rep. Zolnikov is a libertarian, which is different than a TEA Partier.  He defeated Jon Bedford, who is even further to the right, and had posted evidence of his bigoted views on his Facebook page. 


17 Comments on "ANALYSIS: Voters Reject TEA Party Wing in Most GOP Primaries"

  1. Zolnikov beat moderate recruit Bedford
    Harris beat Waterland
    Mortenson beat moderate recruit Smith
    Manzella beat moderate recruit Ralston
    Hopkins, of the conservative wing, won 3-way race in missoula

    Skews your headline a bit.

    • Late start Ralston stands up for agriculture which has been short-changed by Manzella. Ralston 640 – Manzella 739; House District 85.

  2. a few far right wing tea party were defeated. However still large number will be in 2017 legislature in leadership positions. Where there are democratic challengers the republicans are outpolling them by large numbers. What is very concerning to me is in the major state races the GOP canidates are outpolling the Democratic candidate by around 30,000 votes. This does not look good for Democratic party at this point. I was surprised by Nelson getting around 35,000 against GG. I believe A lot of GOP is not happy with GG. That may help Bullock in his race if some of that group swings to him. It appears the Montana Democratic party has it’s work cut out to save state offices. Hillary being the party leader will be no help in turnout in Montana.

    • The statewide voting eligible population turnout of 36.1 percent was considerably higher than in 2012, but not quite as good as 2008’s 38.5 percent. (I’ve posted a spreadsheet at flatheadmemo-dot-com.) This is good news for Democrats.

      In MT, Republicans usually have a better primary turnout than Democrats. The 30k Dem gap probably does not predict the outcome of the general election.

      • Don’t forget the crossoverism. Interesting how so few Dem voters bother with the primaries — of course, you kids usually don’t NEED primaries.

        • Also interesting that Trump got only 73% of the vote in the Republican primary, despite being the only candidate running. 27% of the people who voted in the Republican primary voted for someone other than the guy running.

          • And think of the fact that 24% of the GOP voted for the fake candidate recruited by Gianforte to run against him so he could double the campaign finance limits per donor. This is but one indicator that people have deep doubts about his ability to lead the state…

  3. By your count, TP candidates won 9 out of 24.. If you throw in the races “observer” lists, that goes to 14 out of 29. I’d call that a draw. Given that Nelson/Sardot dip zip to make themselves known to the voters, it seems logical to conclude that nobody really voted for them rather than against Gianforte. But it’s a little alarming when you realize that Nelson may well be to the right of Gianforte.

  4. This also looks to me like an “anyone but Gianforte” protest vote. I would add that the Zolnikov Bedford race appeared to me to be a race between a moderate challenging a conservative, it was a cop with bigoted views, many to the right of Zolnikov, challenging an incumbent.

  5. Calling House District 1 Republican winner Steve Gunderson a Tea Partier is far too kind. Gunderson’s ignorance is astounding, and his Fascist leanings truly frightening. I don’t know if his Democratic opponent is a serious candidate, but there are boatloads of Gunderson skeletons just waiting to be unloaded and exposed.

  6. I don’t believe Woolley lost.

  7. GF Independent | June 9, 2016 6:17 PM at 6:17 PM |

    Lola Sheldon-Galloway is far to the right of Cleve Loney with more skeletons in her closet. She is a member of the John Birch Society and a slum lord to boot.

  8. In House District 71,’Birther Bob’ Wagner failed to unseat moderate incumbent Ray Shaw. Ray took the seat from Wagner after Birther Bob disgraced himself (and our state) on Anderson Cooper a few years back. This is their third matchup, and Shaw has won each of them.

  9. In Beaverhead county the Moderate GOP, Pretty much a party onto themselves now. Have a chance to take back party headquarters since Debbie Barrett is out.

    Jeff Welborn and Tom Welch pretty much had to do their campaigning outside of the minority extreme right who took over in this area.

    The extreme right down here, backed Brooke Erb and Dave Stewart both of them lost thank goodness.

    GOP Brooke Erb shot herself in the foot with not following Campaign Law, and allowing a bunch of texans to finance her campaign in 2014….. she never filed correctly, and got got caught by another Retired Montana Legislator Jessie O’Hara, Who complained to Montana Political Practices. How Montana Western College continues to keep her working there when she has proven herself untrustworthy to deal in Money, doesn’t bode well for that college’s integrity.

    Another campaign worth following in the C5’s will be Dave Stewart, who seems to have garnered support from the Gun Owners PAC and their goofy Leader GAry MARbut. President of the Montana Shooting Sports Association. Looks like these extreme Candidate had backing outside of Beaverhead County.

    Both of the right wing Candidates in Beaverhead had plenty of money to paper the town in Ads and signage. I will be watching their last finance reports Closely!

    Congrats to Jeff Wellborn and Tom Welch for beating the nutcases. Here are two guys us Progressives know will work for across the Aisle, and submit better conservative legislation, then we have seen lately from the extreme right.

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