Anne Annie Bukacek
Ann "Annie" Bukacek Credit: Courtesy photo

Flathead Valley physician Ann “Annie” Bukacek is the presumptive winner of the Republican primary in the race for a seat on Montana’s Public Service Commission, the five-member board that regulates monopoly power, garbage, water and telecommunications utilities.

The GOP primary for the District 5 seat, which encompasses Flathead, Lake, Lewis and Clark and Teton Counties, was hotly contested, with three of the four candidates receiving between 29% and 32% of the vote.


Meet the PSC candidates who want to regulate your rates

Originally formed in 1907 to oversee railroad operations, the five-member Public Service Commission regulates monopolies in the power, natural gas, water, telecommunications and garbage collection industries. This year’s PSC race has drawn an eclectic mix of candidates vying for two open seats on the commission — among the highest-paid positions in state government — and…

The count as of Tuesday afternoon, which includes provisional ballots and select electronic and absentee ballots that were subject to a June 8 deadline, puts termed-out Kalispell legislator Derek Skees behind Bukacek by 87 votes. Though her lead has grown by 13 votes since last Friday’s count, the margin is still tight enough — within half of 1% — that the secretary of state, which administers Montana elections, has flagged it as being one of just three primary races that could be eligible for a recount.

“While I am of course pleased that I held my lead for PSC 5, I will not claim the victory until the Secretary of State website removes the red flagged potential recount.”

Flathead Valley physician Ann Bukacek

It’s unknown if Skees plans to pursue a recount, and Bukacek told Montana Free Press in a Tuesday morning text message that she’s not ready to declare victory. 

“While I am of course pleased that I held my lead for PSC 5, I will not claim the victory until the Secretary of State website removes the red flagged potential recount,” Bukacek said, adding that Skees has not contacted her to concede the race.

Skees did not return multiple requests for comment from MTFP, and neither his campaign Facebook page nor his campaign website has been updated in the week since the June 7 primary.

If Skees were to pursue a recount, he would be required to post a bond with the clerk and recorder of his home county — Flathead — to cover the estimated cost of the effort. He has five days from the official state canvas to do so. The state canvas is currently scheduled for June 28, according to secretary of state spokesperson Richie Melby.

The third-place candidate, Joe Dooling of Helena, conceded the race to Bukacek on June 8. The winner of the GOP primary will face retired Whitefish executive John Repke, who won the Democratic primary for the District 5 seat, in the general election on Nov. 8.

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Amanda Eggert studied print journalism at the University of Montana. Prior to becoming a full-time journalist, Amanda spent four years working with the Forest Service as a wildland firefighter. After leaving the Forest Service in 2014, Amanda worked for Outside magazine as an editorial fellow before joining Outlaw Partners’ staff to lead coverage for Explore Big Sky newspaper and contribute writing and editing to Explore Yellowstone and Mountain Outlaw magazines. Prior to joining Montana Free Press’ staff in 2021 Amanda was a freelance writer, researcher and interviewer. In addition to writing...