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.
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.
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.
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.
Last month, state Superintendent Elsie Arntzen announced a bit of agency shuffling at a privately owned office building on the corner of 11th and Montana avenues in Helena, just a few blocks north of the Capitol complex. As part of Arntzen’s ongoing effort to shrink her agency’s physical footprint, the Office of Public Instruction vacated…
It’s getting drafty in the Capitol
For decades, warm water fans have trekked through rain, snow and ice to soak under the stars in the natural pools at Weir Creek Hot Springs just across the Montana border in Idaho. But the days of relaxing under the stars at Weir are over, and soakers who attempt to stay past 8 p.m. may…