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2017 Special Election Montana Politics

The special election, Part III

(This is the final installment of a special election overview. The first was a nuts-and-bolts procedural primer. The second looked at the Republican field. This one focuses on the Democrats.)

There are now seven candidates vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination to replace the soon to be Secretary of the Interior and former Montana U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke.*

In a special election to be held in late May/early June, the party’s nominee will face off against a Republican and a Libertarian, although with Mike Fellows’ passing, we’ll see if Libertarians advance a candidate.

I offer my appreciation to anyone from any party who is willing to exit beautiful Montana for the Little Sky Country swamp of Washington, D.C.

On the Democratic side, there appear to be three front runners and an interesting mix of other hopefuls. One common theme seems to be a call to activism in the wake of a Trump victory:

“The election of Donald Trump was a ‘trigger’ for me to take a more active role,” said Missoula teacher Gary Stein.

“I feel it’s my responsibility to step up and do what I can,” wrote Link Neimark, a small business owner in Whitefish.

“I am responding to President Obama’s call for young Democrats to run for office,” Dan West, a Missoula native and former D.C. staffer said.

“I can’t help but feel that I’ve been called to do this,” said Butte teacher and state representative Amanda Curtis.

In conversations, a similar response to confront the nefarious rhetoric and policies coming from the nation’s capitol was repeated by Rob Quist and Kelly McCarthy. I have not spoken to John Meyer but would assume that as an environmental activist, he is deeply concerned with the direction of Trump and his cabinet.

Anyway, those are the seven, so far. My best guess is that nominating conventions will be held on the last weekend in February or first weekend in March.

The Bozeman Chronicle held a straw poll among Democratic delegates. Here are the results but I’m taking them with a grain of salt since I’m a delegate and no one contacted me.

Who’s going to win the general election? It’s whomever runs the best campaign (duh). But that means, in a low turnout election, the one who hits the ground running in the small window after the nominating convention and before the special election has the advantage. They’ll need an organization in place, a statewide strategy and the ability to raise money. Most important, they’ll need great person-to-person contact: meet-and-greets, door knocking, phone calls and a massive GOTV (get-out-the-vote) final week blitzkrieg.

A polling place only election (unlikely), a mail-in only (possibly) or both (most likely), will also affect how these races are conducted.

It’s heating up. Stay tuned.


*Representative Zinke is a misnomer since he’s hardly cast a vote this year. Scroll down on this link to view Zinke’s abysmal voting record.

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About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

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