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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

GOP factions split wins and losses in legislative primaries

Factions within Montana’s GOP supermajority in the Legislature split wins and loses on primary night.

The primary results were a mixed bag, says Republican Rep. David Bedey from Hamilton. In races between hard-right GOP candidates and more moderate conservatives, each faction picked up wins and losses. Bedey, a moderate within his party, says he’s feeling upbeat about the results.

“We’re going to see a group of excellent legislators coming to – so long as they get through the general election – come to the Legislature,” said Bedey.

Both Bedey and Rep. Llew Jones of Conrad, key members of a group called the Solutions Caucus, fended off challengers. In Great Falls, Rep. Josh Kassmeier beat hard-right Rep. Lola Sheldon-Galloway, vice chair of the state GOP, in the race for a Senate seat. Sheldon-Galloway’s husband and House Freedom Caucus member, Rep. Steve Galloway, appears to have narrowly lost his race to newcomer Melissa Nikolakakos.

House Freedom Caucus chair Sen. Theresa Manzella beat moderate Rep. Wayne Rusk in Ravalli County. Other candidates backed by the Freedom Caucus, Lukas Schubert in the Flathead and Kathy Love in the Bitterroot, prevailed over more moderate incumbents, Reps. Tony Brockman, of Evergreen, and Michele Binkley of Hamilton.

Montana GOP chair Don Kaltschmidt said in a statement he’s confident his party will continue to dominate elections and that voters are “fired up and ready to elect Republicans.”

Bedey says he hopes Republicans can unite in their efforts to win in November but there will still be differences.

“I would actually kind of worry about a group of politicians if they all voted the same way,” said Bedey.

Montana Democrats House Minority Leader Kim Abbott says she’s confident in the group of candidates from her party who’ve advanced.

“We just have a broad array of really qualified candidates with deep roots in their communities,” said Abbot.

Democrats want to chip away at the Republican supermajority in the state Legislature this cycle. After a years-long redistricting process to account for population changes, that goal looks more attainable. Data compiled by the party shows Democrats have a better chance at winning in 10 new districts.

The final tally will be decided in November.

Shaylee covers state government and politics for Montana Public Radio. Please share tips, questions and concerns at 406-539-1677 or  
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