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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Essmann: Republican Governor Can Help Mend Moderate-Conservative Split

Montana GOP Chairman Jeff Essman.
Montana Legislature

After Tuesday's primary elections, moderate Republicans gained little ground in the battle to take Montana legislative seats away from the more conservative members of their party. State GOP Chairman Jeff Essman says a Republican governor has the best chance to unite what he calls a diversity within the Republican Party.

Montana’s House and Senate are currently controlled by Republican majorities. But at times during the last legislative session the party’s agenda was split between conservatives and moderate Republicans willing to vote alongside Democrats on key issues.

Essmann says the unity of the party going into the next session will hinge on who becomes the next governor.

"If you have a Republican in the governor's office there will be a desire to help support a conservative budget and back conservative policies that are good for Montana."

After winning the the Republican gubernatorial primary last night, Bozeman software entrepreneur Greg Gianforte became his party’s official candidate to lead the state.

Gianforte’s primary opponent, Terry Nelson, won nearly a quarter of the vote without running much of campaign to oppose Gianforte.

In comparison, incumbent Steve Bullock defeated his primary opponent 91 percent to eight percent.

Essmann chalks up the unexpected competition in the primary to Gianforte’s lack of name recognition with Republican voters.

"Well, this is the first time that Mr. Gianforte’s name has appeared on an election ballot in the state of Montana. And if you look at the numbers, [he had] more votes on the ballot yesterday than our incumbent governor. So as long as he does that in November we’ll have a new governor."

Gianforte won just over 500 more primary votes than Bullock. Total votes cast by Republicans on the gubernatorial primary outnumbered Democrats by more than 20,000.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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