Credit: Clint McFarlin/Eric Dietrich

“Be aware that anyone who votes for this bill is going to need to answer to the people back home, without a doubt.” So said Republican Brad Tschida, majority leader of the Montana House of Representatives, speaking against fellow Republican Rep. Ed Buttrey’s bill to renew Medicaid expansion in late March of the 2019 legislative session.

Tschida, a leader in the hardline conservative GOP faction that refers to itself as the .38 Special, warned that a political reckoning would come for Republicans who helped pass the bill that gave nearly 100,000 Montanans access to health care coverage.

With the support of a loose group of pragmatic Republican lawmakers who call themselves the Solutions Caucus, Buttrey’s bill ultimately passed and became law. With at least 12 Republican legislators facing contested primaries on Tuesday, June 2, Montana voters will soon know if that reckoning has come.


Last week, Montana Free Press published a four-part series exploring how the campaigns between at-odds Republicans are playing out. The first installment took a data-focused look at which incumbent seats look to be competitive in 2020, and three subsequent articles profiled the higher-profile Republican primary races: the Bitterroot’s Senate District 44 contest between Nancy Ballance and Theresa Manzella; the contest for the Flathead’s House District 35 between incumbent Derek Skees and first-time candidate Dee Kirk-Boon; and eastern Montana’s House District 11, where incumbent Joel Krautter faces a challenge from political newcomer Brandon Ler.

To cap off the reporting, Montana Free Press editor-in-chief John S. Adams hosted the project’s reporters for a roundtable discussion exploring shared themes from the three races. MTFP staffers Mara Silvers and Eric Dietrich and freelance reporter Alex Sakariassen joined Adams for a special weekend installment of the Montana Lowdown podcast, a weekly publication of Montana Free Press.

Alex McKenzie has worked with a diverse array of start-ups and nonprofit organizations. He is a former record producer and music journalist, has additional experience working in agriculture and food security, and previously operated his own dairy business. He lives in southwest Montana. Follow him on Twitter.