Editor's note: Changes have been made to this editorial to correct inaccuracies. A contract to print the corrective voter's guide addendum was granted using a bidding process. Corey Stapleton commuted to Helena from Billings, not Great Falls, and the truck he used was leased, not owned, by the state.
The Montana Standard endorses Democrat Bryce Bennett for Secretary of State.
His Republican opponent, Christi Jacobsen, is currently Deputy Secretary of State. She has been in lockstep with Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, who has been unworthy of the office.
Jacobsen says she wants to build on Stapleton's successes. She counts among those digitizing business records and modernizing office operations.
We count Stapleton's failures as considerably outnumbering successes. He has run a hyper-partisan office by any measure.
Stapleton pointed to alleged voter fraud in Montana that was nonexistent, and was forced to backtrack — in the process impugning the work of dedicated county election administrators across the state.
He was found to have improperly used a state-leased pickup truck to commute from Billings to Helena. He has spent considerable state time and funds pursuing repeated failed legal actions to back Republican efforts to place Green Party candidates on the ballot. Under Stapleton's and Jacobsen's tenure, the office produced a voter guide with serious errors, which cost $265,000 to correct. Stapleton also was fined for using state resources to announce his short-lived run for governor.
Jacobsen refuses to condemn any of Stapleton's missteps and abuses. And while she does possess valuable experience in the office, her ties to Stapleton, we believe, are disqualifying.
She has called her opponent "a radical socialist" and has criticized his views on guns and abortion, neither of which, last we checked, has a thing to do with the office they are seeking. She also has said she doesn't know much about the Secretary of State's role on the Land Board, although later in the campaign she promised to protect public access to state lands while encouraging their development as revenue sources for public schools.
Bennett, a state senator from Hysham, is no socialist.
He has a solid record in the Legislature. He has worked with county clerks and recorders, who administer elections, so effectively already that the Montana Association of Clerks and Recorders has given him an award for leadership.
A housecleaning in the Secretary of State's Office is urgently needed. We believe Bennett will be a breath of fresh air and will competently run our elections, will make the office an efficient service station for the state's businesses, and will provide responsible, knowledgeable service on the Land Board.
Bennett has earned our support, and we urge you to give him yours.
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