As the filing period for people seeking elected office hits the halfway point, several more candidates have formally registered and paid filing fees to get their name on the ballot for a slew of federal, state and legislative offices.
In perhaps the most-watched race this year, the Republican primary for candidates seeking a chance to unseat U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, grew by two this week as state Auditor Matt Rosendale and former Yellowstone County judge Russ Fagg filed their candidacies at the Montana Secretary of State’s office.
Filing opened Jan. 11 and closes at 5 p.m. March 12. The primary is June 5 and the general election is Nov. 6.
Rosendale, who filed Friday, said his campaign is going “extremely well.”
“We have been very well received and supported, as shown by the results of the poll,” Rosendale said, citing an internal poll his campaign released Thursday.
The poll, which surveyed 401 likely Republican primary voters in Montana, found 78 percent of Montanans have heard of Rosendale and that 28 percent of voters said if the election were held today they would vote for him. The margin of error is 4.4 percent.
Earlier this week, Fagg also went to Helena to formally file in the U.S. Senate primary.
In a statement earlier in the week, Fagg said he was running because he doesn’t feel Tester represents Montanans.
“As a fourth generation Montanan, I know the kind of voice Montanans need representing them in the U.S. Senate,” Fagg said in the statement. “Jon Tester regularly puts his party leadership ahead of Montanans. He’s out of touch, and it’s past time to send him packing.”
Other candidates in the primary include Troy Downing, a Bozeman businessman, and state Sen. Albert Olszewski, a Kalispell doctor, who both filed on opening day.
Recent campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission show Downing has raised $860,000 through Dec. 31, with $650,000 coming from his own pocket. Rosendale has raised $765,000, Fagg has raised $615,000 and Olszewski has brought in $210,000.
Tester raised $9.4 million, with about $3 million coming from political committees.
Two other candidates who announced but have not filed include James and Sarah Dean, a husband and wife with a shady background who moved to Havre late last year. The Havre Daily News reported last week that the Deans, "amid a child custody battle," are moving away from Havre. James Dean, who also goes by the name Daniel Lane Dean, told the Havre Daily News he and his wife would continue their campaigns.
The Democratic primary for Montana's U.S. House seat has not changed since the opening day for filing. Candidates include Billings attorney John Heenan, former Missoula nonprofit director Grant Kier, former Billings lawmaker Lynda Moss and former Bozeman legislator Kathleen Williams. Bozeman attorney Jared Pettinato has not yet filed to appear on the ballot, though he has filed fundraising reports with the Federal Elections Commission.
In the House race, Heenan and Kier have outraised the rest of the field, with Heenan pulling in $580,000, including $200,000 of his own money, and Kier raising $440,000. Williams, Moss and Pettinato have not raised more than $75,000.
Incumbent Rep. Greg Gianforte has raised more than $600,000 and has personal wealth and the ability to self-fund, something he did to the tune of $6 million in his failed bid for governor in 2016 and $1.5 million in the special election for the U.S. House seat last May. Roll Call also recently reported that Gianforte accepted about $20,000 in corporate political action committee money for his re-election race, after a pledge in 2017 to not accept that type of donation.
A seat on the Public Service Commission in District 1 is now a four-way race.
Earlier this month, former state legislator Randy Pinocci filed, as did Mark L. Wicks. Wicks, who filed as a Republican, ran as a Libertarian during last May's special election for the U.S. House. They join former state legislator Rob Cook, a Republican who said he is moving to Shelby to live in the district, and Corey McKinney, a Great Falls Republican.
Still uncontested is the District 5 seat on the Public Service Commission, with Democrat Tyrel Suzor-Hoy the only candidate who has filed. Other races still uncontested at the midpoint in the filing period are the clerk of the Supreme Court, with Democrat Rex Renk filed; Supreme Court justice No. 4, with incumbent Beth Baker filed; and Supreme Court justice No. 2, with incumbent Ingrid Gustafson filed.
In the state Legislature, all 100 seats in the House and 25 of the 50 seats in the Senate are open. So far, 185 people have filed for those seats, including 90 Democrats, 84 Republicans, eight Libertarians and one Independent.
In the House, 61 seats have only one person who has filed; that number is 12 in the Senate. There are 31 incumbents who have signed up to run again at the midway point of the filing period.
Of the seats with only one person who has filed so far, three are seats currently held by Republicans and have only a Democrat who has filed. There are four seats up for election this year where a candidate has not yet filed.
During the last legislative session, which ran from January to April 2017, Republicans held a 59-41 majority in the House and 32-18 majority in the Senate.