Montana Politics

Primary Predictions

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Just a couple of thoughts about tomorrow’s primary in a few statewide and local races, from my narrow vantage point. If you haven’t yet, be sure to vote. You can check your registration status and polling place on this handy tool at the Secretary of State’s page.

Democratic Nomination for Congress

I think Tyler Gernant wins this race narrowly tomorrow. While Dennis McDonald certainly had an advantage in name recognition and connection to the party establishment, Gernant’s had a much more energetic and visible campaign. Here in Helena and driving around the state (admittedly the Western part for the most part), I’ve seen more signs for Gernant and he has been much more active in the traditional media and the the ‘net. It’s going to be close, but I think Gernant wins with 50-55% of the vote in a four person race.

If Gernant does indeed win, it’s time for the traditional labor power brokers to reconsider their approach a bit. I don’t think they have the influence in Montana progressive politics that they used to—or still seem to imagine that they do. A Gernant win would be a further sign of that diminished role.

Why haven’t I endorsed either candidate? To be honest, both would be such an improvement over Representative Rehberg that I’m happy to support either in the fall. I’ll be casting my vote for Mark French tomorrow, anyway.

Republican Nomination for Congress

While I don’t share the views of the astute observers on Montana politics at Fox News about tomorrow’s race on the Republican side, it’s been interesting to watch Rehberg scramble to smear his hypocritical “constitutionalist” opponent while simultaneously appealing to the Tea Party fringe.

Rehberg wins this contest easily, but with around 70% of the vote. The real question will be whether or not the constitutionalist  fringe will stick with Rehberg in the fall or follow their principles and reject his socialistic ways.

Local races below the fold.

Senate District 40-Democratic

The most hotly contested race in Helena has to be the Democratic primary in SD 40 which pits Representative Dave Gallik against Representative Mary Caferro. Both are hard-working, energetic candidates who have the interests of working Montanans at the top of their agenda, and both would make excellent Senators. I think Gallik wins the nomination by the narrowest of margins.

House District 78-Democratic

I think Democrats would be better served if Molly Severtson won the primary, but name recognition will be a huge plus for Joe Cohenour. Even though he hasn’t been terribly successful in past runs, through previous campaigns and his wife’s elections, more voters in a relatively quiet primary are likely to vote for him.

House District 78-Republican

This is certainly a tough race to call. You’ve got Phoebe Williams, who is running on no issues and the most annoying radio ad in campaign history. You’ve got  Bowen Greenwood, who simultaneously hangs out at Tea Parties and decries government spending while appealing to potential East Helena voters by saying he won’t cut state jobs and would support the state funding the Historical Center in Helena. Finally, you’ve got Steve Gibson, who has been relatively quiet during this primary following a particularly nasty fight with Jill Cohenhour in 2008.

I think Greenwood’s unique job that offers unmatched time to campaign will give him the edge tomorrow.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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