Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Bullock Re-elected: Some Top Montana Races Still Too Close To Call

Congressman Ryan Zinke, State Attorney General Tim Fox, and Secretary of State candidate Corey Stapleton were declared winners from yesterday’s balloting.The A-P declared incumbent Steve Bullock the winner at 8:25 a.m. but other statewide races were still too close to call. Bullock defeated Greg Gianforte, his Republican opponent, by a 50-47% margin.

Around 11 p.m. last night, incumbent Democrat Steve Bullock took the stage at the Great Northern Hotel in Helena to thank his supporters and said it was time to call it a night and tuck his kids into bed.

“We are so grateful for all that you have done,” Bullock said. “Mike and I both said we’re not going to wake up the day after the election and say, ‘If only done a little bit more, Montana would continue to be going in the right direction.’ I know we did it all.”

Bullock faced a tough, expensive race from Republican challenger Greg Gianforte. The high tech businessman was making his first run for political office. The returns see-sawed throughout the night, until Bullock began to pull ahead in the early morning hours.

Gianforte thanked his supporters last night during his election party at the Best Western GranTree in Bozeman.

“It’s just tremendous the support we’ve received,” Gianforte said.

U.S. House

Congressman Ryan Zinke, R-MT, watched election returns with about 100 supporters last night at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake. Around midnight the former state legislator and retired Navy Seal thanked the few dozen people remaining at the event.

“One thing that is so special about Montana as you go across her, is she’s big. She’s beautiful,” he said. “And I am so honored to be your congressman.”

Zinke said this election has divided the the country, but he remains optimistic.

State School Superintendent Denise Juneau, Zinke’s Democratic challenger, conceded the race just after midnight. Before that, she thanked her supporters and said she was proud of her campaign.

“I ran and started this run for Congress not so I could get a job in Washington, D.C. but so I could go to D.C. and make a difference,” she said. “I ran to put Montana’s land, people, and economy first.”

Secretary of State

The only other race to be called by The Associated Press was for Secretary of State.

Credit Jackie Yamanaka
Corey Stapleton, R, texts with supporters while watching the election returns at the Yellowstone County GOP party at Lone Wolf Energy in Billings

Corey Stapleton, a former Billings legislator, says he’s delighted and grateful for winning this open seat. Stapleton says he was prepared for a tough contest because his opponent had name recognition. Democrat Monica Lindeen is the current State Auditor.

The Secretary of State is also Montana’s top elections official. As the returns came in, Stapleton was watching and listening at the Yellowstone County GOP party at Lone Wolf Energy.

“My ears have been perking all night long,” he said.
We’ve had problems in Cascade County. We had problems in Flathead. Problems in Sanders and throughout the state. Little things.”

He says they are fixable and he looks forward to talking with local elections officials to see if there’s room for improvement.

Stapleton will take over the seat from Democrat Linda McCulloch who was prevented by term limits from seeking the office again.

State Auditor

Senate Majority Leader Matt Rosendale continues to lead his Democratic opponent Jesse Laslovich in the contest for state Auditor.

Credit Jackie Yamanaka
Matt Rosendale, center, poses with his wife Jean and his son, Matt Jr. at the Yellowstone County GOP election party in Billings

The Republican from Glendive was thrilled with how the returns have been coming in through the early morning hours.  He was behind then steadily climbed ahead.  Rosendale said he’s ready to get to work.

“I have a lot of things that I’ve worked on over the last 6 years in the Legislature and I’m going to put a bunch of those back in place again,” he said. “(I) have already started to evaluate where’s going to be the best place to focus attention to be most productive as soon as we walk in the office door.”

Rosendale has been an outspoken critic of the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare. The state Auditor is the regulator of securities and insurance. So when he was asked if that meant he planned to dismantle this mandate, “We have a new president now and he’s made it exceedingly clear that he want to do that.”

“I again have started working on plans 6 years ago to offer folks more options and alternatives so that we do not have these health care costs spiraling out of control that are really hurting out state and across the nation.”

Rosendale said Montana voters made it very clear they are looking for a better business climate and “want folks to work on solutions to help them and not just grow government.”

State School Superintendent

This race was still not called as of this morning by The Associated Press. Democrat Melissa Romano jumped to an early lead, but it eroded as the night wore on and Republican Elsie Arntzen kept that unofficial lead.

Credit Jackie Yamanaka
State Senator and Republican candidate for OPI Elsie Arntzen, L, talks with a supporter at the Yellowstone County GOP party.

The Billings legislator and teacher from Billings said she felt overwhelmed and excited early this morning.

“We have 411 very unique school districts that service 145,000 very unique students and it is going to be a lot of work, but I’ve got that positive personality that I’m ready to put this to play.”

Arntzen and Romano, an elementary school teacher in Helena, are vying for the open seat now held by Denise Juneau, the unsuccessful candidate for Montana’s lone U.S. House seat.

This was Romano’s first run for political office.

“I feel optimistic about this race,” Romano said last night. “I am really proud to have the education community and the state behind me. It is a huge positive for me. I am so grateful for their support. I feel positive about where we’re at. I am confident that we are going to pull it out.”

Montana Supreme Court

Shortly after 8 a.m., The Associated Press declared Dirk Sandefur the winner of the open Justice #3 seat on the Montana Supreme Court. Unofficial returns show Sandefur defeated Kristen Juris by a 56-44% margin. This was the only contested race for the state’s high court.