HELENA — Montana voters will have a hefty ballot to consider in 2020, packed with decisions about the U.S. presidential election, two of Montana’s three congressional seats, and five statewide offices including governor.
Even with a year and a half until Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, Montana candidates aspiring and declared have begun jockeying for position in primary elections set for June 2, 2020. Keeping track can feel like herding cats. The round-up that follows can help.
Montana Free Press will keep this article updated as new candidates throw their hats in the ring in the coming months. And, hey, if you’re a Montanan planning a run and want to tip us off, send us an email.
The governor is the state’s chief executive, tasked with overseeing state agencies and proposing state budgets to the Montana Legislature. The governor also holds one of five seats on the Montana Board of Land Commissioners, which has authority over state trust lands.
Current Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, is termed out after two four-year terms in office — and has launched a campaign for president. Democrats have controlled the office since Gov. Brian Schweitzer was first elected in 2004.
Announced — Attorney General Tim Fox
Fox, wrapping up his second four-year term as Montana’s attorney general, announced his campaign for governor in January. Originally from Hardin, he has a University of Montana law degree and formerly worked as an attorney in private practice.
Facebook page: facebook.com/foxforgovernor
- MTN News / Montana Attorney General Tim Fox announces campaign for governor
- Lee Newspapers / Attorney General Tim Fox announces run for Montana governor
Announced — state Sen. Al Olszewski
Olszewski, an orthopedic surgeon and state senator from Kalispell, announced his gubernatorial campaign in April. He previously ran for the U.S. Senate in 2018, placing fourth in the Republican primary.
Facebook page: facebook.com/alformontana
Announced— U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte
Gianforte was the Republican nominee for governor in 2012, but failed to derail Gov. Steve Bullock’s re-election bid. Jumping into politics after founding and selling RightNow Technologies in Bozeman, he was elected to the U.S. House in the 2017 special election and re-elected to a two-year term in 2019. He filed to run for Montana governor again June 7.
Facebook page: facebook.com/RepGianforte
- Glasgow Courier / Gianforte ‘Seriously Considering’ Run for Governor
- Lee Newspapers / Gianforte files to run for governor in 2020
Filed — Former state Sen. Gary Perry
Perry, of Manhattan, filed as a gubernatorial candidate with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices April 10. He served as a state senator between 2002 and 2010.
Facebook page: facebook.com/PerryGov2020/
Withdrawn — Secretary of State Corey Stapleton
Stapleton, currently Montana’s secretary of state, initially announced a 2020 bid for Montana governor but shifted his focus to the U.S. House after incumbent U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte announced he would run for governor in June.
Announced — House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner
Schreiner is a four-term representative who served in minority leadership in House in the 2015 and 2017 legislative sessions. He is termed-out of the House in 2020. Schreiner is a former science teacher who now serves as the director of the Montana State Workforce Innovation Board.
LISTEN: Montana Lowdown Podcast
- Democrat Schreiner campaigning to retain seat representing House District 26
- Guest opinion: Democrats delivered for all Montanans
Filed — Former State Rep. Reilly Neill
Neill, who represented Park County from 2013 to 2015, filed to run for Governor as a Democrat June 8. A Livingston resident, she is also the editor of the arts and culture publication Montana Press Monthly.
Rumored — Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney
Cooney, a former Montana legislator and secretary of state, has been Bullock’s lieutenant governor since 2016. MTN News has named him as a potential Democratic candidate for governor, citing unnamed sources that say he is “seriously considering the race.”
Not running — Former Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Michael Punke
Punke, who served as U.S. ambassador to the World Trade Organization in the Obama administration, is better known in Montana as the author of the novel The Revenant, which was adapted into the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio. He lives in Missoula and, according to his LinkedIn profile, currently works as a vice president of global public policy for Amazon Web Services.
Punke had been named as a potential Democratic Senate or gubernatorial candidate, but said in a June 24 tweet that he wouldn’t seek election in the 2020 cycle.
Filed — Ron Vandevender
Vandevender, of Cascade, previously ran for Governor in 2012 and has also campaigned for a seat in the Montana Legislature.
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Two U.S. senators represent the state in the upper chamber of the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C., each elected to six-year terms. Montana’s out-of-cycle senator, Democrat Jon Tester, is next up for re-election in 2024.
Announced — U.S. Sen. Steve Daines
Daines, who worked for Rep. Greg Gianforte as an executive at the Bozeman company RightNow Technologies, was Montana’s U.S. representative during the 2012 term, and was elected to the Senate in 2014. He has said he plans to seek re-election to a second term in 2020.
Facebook page: facebook.com/SteveDainesMT
Announced — Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins
Collins, elected mayor of Helena in 2017, announced his bid for the U.S. Senate May 13. A Liberian refugee, he fled his home country’s civil war in the 1990s, according to the Helena Independent Record. Collins is thought to be Montana’s first black mayor since statehood.
Facebook page: facebook.com/WilmotCollinsforSenate
Potential — Gov. Steve Bullock
Bullock, who announced his bid for the U.S. presidency May 14, has repeatedly said he’s not interested in running for the U.S. Senate. Even so, some Democrats have urged him to challenge Daines, and with his presidential bid a long shot in a crowded Democratic field, his option to pivot toward the lower office remains.
- MTFP / Bullock launches long-shot presidential bid
- Politico / Dems plead with Steve Bullock to abandon White House bid for Senate
Not running — Former Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Michael Punke
Montana has a sole delegate in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the U.S. Congress. Incumbent Rep. Greg Gianforte, first elected in a 2017 special election, has said he’ll run for governor in 2020 instead of seeking another house term.
Announced — Secretary of State Corey Stapleton
Stapleton, a former state senator, was elected secretary of state in 2016 and made unsuccessful primary bids for governor in 2012 and the U.S. House in 2014. According to MTN News, he has an engineering degree from the U.S. Naval Academy and previously worked as a financial adviser in Billings. He said he would run for Montana governor in January, but switched his focus to the U.S. House after Gianforte announced his own gubernatorial bid.
Facebook page: facebook.com/CoreyforMT
- MTN News / Stapleton announces bid for governor
- MTFP / On the final day of GOP convention, Stapleton changes lanes, and Republican candidates for governor make their case
Announced — State Auditor Matt Rosendale
Rosendale, of Glendive, said he would run for the U.S. House June 17. Elected state auditor in 2016, he made an unsuccessful run against U.S. Sen. Jon Tester in 2018.
Rumored — Joe Dooling
Dooling, a rancher from the Helena Valley and chairman of the Lewis and Clark County GOP Central Committee, told the Montana Free Press in June that he was “seriously looking” at a U.S. House bid and that he would announce plans by July 4.
Announced — Former state Rep. Kathleen Williams
Williams, a former state legislator from Bozeman, announced her second run for the U.S. House in April. While she came up 24,000 votes short in her prior attempt to unseat Gianforte in 2018, that margin was closer than any Democrat who has run for Montana’s U.S. House seat in more than a decade.
Facebook page: facebook.com/Williamsformontana
Announced — state Rep. Tom Winter
Winter, a freshman state representative from Missoula, announced his candidacy in April. He owns home health-care provider Interim HealthCare of Montana, according to Lee Newspapers.
Facebook page: facebook.com/WinterForMontana
The state’s chief law enforcement and legal officer, the attorney general oversees the state Department of Justice, issues legal opinions interpreting state law and acts as an advocate for the public interest in certain legal proceedings. The attorney general also serves on the state land board.
Incumbent Attorney General Tim Fox, a Republican, is term-limited and has announced a run for governor.
Announced — Chief Deputy Attorney General Jon Bennion
Bennion, currently a senior staffer in the attorney general’s office, announced his candidacy in February. Originally from Billings, according to Lee Newspapers, he has worked in the AG’s office since 2013.
Facebook page: facebook.com/bennionforag
Announced — Former Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen
Knudsen, an attorney from Culbertson, served eight years in the Montana House of Representatives, including four as one of the state’s youngest-ever speakers of the House. He announced his candidacy May 20. Knudsen, who was termed out of the House after four terms, was elected Roosevelt County Attorney in 2018.
Facebook page: facebook.com/Austin-Knudsen-for-Montana-294061056548/
Announced — state Rep. Kim Dudik
Dudik, who currently represents Missoula in the state Legislature, announced her candidacy in December.
Facebook page: facebook.com/dudikformontana
Listen: Montana Lowdown Podcast
Announced — Raph Graybill
Graybill, currently the governor’s chief legal counsel, announced his candidacy in May.
Facebook page: facebook.com/RaphforAG
Secretary of State
The secretary of state oversees Montana’s elections and manages state records, as well as serving on the state land board.
Current Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, a Republican, has announced a bid for the U.S. House.
Announced – Senate President Scott Sales
Sales, a state senator from Bozeman who has served in the Montana Legislature since 2003, said he would run for secretary of state in March. He served as senate president in the 2017 and 2019 legislative sessions.
Rumored – Public Service Commission Chairman Brad Johnson
Johnson, of East Helena, has been mentioned as a potential secretary of state candidate. He told MTFP in June that he was too busy with his work at the PSC, the state’s utility regulation commission, to give his political future much thought but didn’t rule out a run. He previously served as secretary of state from 2005 to 2009.
Announced – state Sen. Bryce Bennett
Bennett, a state senator from Missoula, announced his candidacy for secretary of state May 29. He is the executive director of the Montana Public Interest Research Group, a University of Montana-affiliated policy nonprofit, and has served in the Legislature since 2011.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Heading the Montana Office of Public Instruction, the superintendent of public instruction oversees the state’s K-12 school system, much of which is governed directly by locally elected school boards. The superintendent of public instruction also serves on the state land board.
Incumbent — Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen
Arntzen, formerly a state legislator from Billings, was elected superintendent of public instruction in 2016. As of May 2019, she hasn’t said whether she’ll seek re-election.
Announced — Melissa Romano
Romano, an award-winning Helena teacher, was the 2016 Democratic nominee for superintendent of public instruction, losing to Arntzen. She said she plans to take another shot at the job in April.
The state auditor, who also serves as commissioner of securities and insurance, runs the office responsible for protecting Montanans from fraud by regulating the insurance and securities industries. The state auditor also serves on the state land board.
Incumbent Matt Rosendale has announced a bid for U.S. House.
No candidates to date.
No candidates to date.
Are you a candidate planning to announce a campaign? See out-of-date material here? Have information you want us to consider adding? Let us know at [email protected].