The Montana State Capitol dome rises above an inversion blanketing the Helena valley on Jan. 6, 2022. Credit: John S. Adams/MTFP

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The Legislature’s newest member is Rep. Naarah Hastings, R-Billings, whom the Yellowstone County Board of Commissioners selected this week to replace former Republican Rep. Mallerie Stromswold. 

Stromswold resigned earlier this month, citing her mental health and an at times hostile Republican caucus. Her resignation left an open seat in House District 50, setting into motion the complicated vacancy process laid out in statute. 

The Yellowstone County Republican Central Committee advanced three candidates to the county commissioners last week: Hastings, former county commissioner Denis Pitman, and attorney Anthony Nicastro. As Stromswold was a Republican, so too were all the candidates to replace her. 

Hastings, the eventual pick, is a transplant from Washington state who owns a doughnut shop in Billings and founded a talent acquisition company. Her LinkedIn page notes that she’s also a Brazilian jiu-jitsu athlete. 

“We’re glad to have a full family,” House Speaker Matt Regier, R-Kalispell, told reporters Tuesday morning in introducing Hastings. 

Aside from Stromswold, the Legislature has been riddled with vacancies over the last few weeks. Sen. Terry Gauthier, R-Helena, resigned to go on a globe-trotting motorcycle trip — his seat was filled by now-Sen. Becky Beard, R-Elliston. Beard’s departure from the House to take Gauthier’s place left her House seat open — that seat was filled by Rep. Zack Wirth, R-Wolf Creek. Meanwhile, Rep. Douglas Flament, R-Lewistown, himself a vacancy filler, resigned due to health problems. He was replaced by Rep. Ed Butcher, R-Winifred. 

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Arren Kimbel-Sannit

Raised in Arizona, Arren is no stranger to the issues impacting Western states, having a keen interest in the politics of land, transportation and housing. Prior to moving to Montana, Arren was a statehouse reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times and covered agricultural and trade policy for Politico in Washington, D.C. In Montana, he has carved out a niche in shoe-leather heavy muckraking based on public documents and deep sourcing that keeps elected officials uncomfortable and the public better informed.