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2020 PSC Race Energy Montana Politics

Billings Republican Zolnikov Primaries Weak PSC Incumbent, My Jaw Drops to Floor

Empty chairs are the norm at the PSC. Hot mics are also a common thing.

In the slew of candidates that need REAL primaries on the Republican side of the aisle, Steve Daines, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, it is with shock and amazement to see an incumbent PSC commissioner face a primary from a young, fresh-faced Republican that could actually be the future of the party and not just another rich guy who wants to buy a job (see Troy Downing.)

Remember, Republicans did not primary Greg Gianforte in 2018. The man who had just assaulted a reporter. So it is pretty crazy that a PSC commissioner who has delivered for corporations and not hardworking Montanans would actually face a challenge in a party so fundamentally broken that the more threats, outrageous remarks and downright terrible policy you make only garners you more support from the establishment Republican Party.

A civil war has been discussed in politics of late but oddly enough it is actually happening inside the Billings Republican party. The Billings Chamber, the Yellowstone County GOP Party and numerous candidates are locked in glorious battle for the heart and soul of the future of the party. That’s why this primary is happening

Tony O’Donnell is the incumbent PSC commissioner and Daniel Zolnikov is the primary challenger.

From the Billings Gazette: 

Zolnikov, who was chair of the House Energy Committee in the 2019 Legislature, said he was compelled to run after looking at the lasting financial damage of past PSC decisions. He named the commission’s 2014 approval of NorthWestern Energy’s $870 million purchase of 11 Montana hydroelectric dams previously owned by Pennsylvania Power and Light as one vote that’s left consumers paying much higher prices for power than what’s available on the free market. South Dakota-based NorthWestern is the largest monopoly utility in Montana.

“One of those bad decisions was obviously deregulation, that is the easiest one. The other was the purchase of the dams at such a high price,” Zolnikov said.

The Montana Commissioner of Political Practices ruled in 2018 that Tony O’Donnell made a loan to Rodney Garcia’s campaign and that ” Mr. O’Donnell violated Montana’s campaign contribution limits.”

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Nathan Kosted

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  • Well, Zolnikov would be an improvement over O’Donnell, but so would Tim Fox be better than Greg Gianforte and I don’t want to see either of those dudes in the governor’s seat. I know it’s a damn hard district for a Democrat to win, but isn’t there a progressive, aggressive, knowledgable Dem. who could give them a run for their money and get really important (read: help save the planet) energy issues in front of the voters?

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