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Montana’s new western congressional district rated as ‘likely Republican’

 Montanan's final congressional district map, adopted Nov. 12, 2021.
Montanan's final congressional district map, adopted Nov. 12, 2021.

New analysis shows that Montana’s two congressional districts are likely to yield Republican winners.

The nonpartisan newsletter Cook Political Report with Amy Walter rated Montana’s eastern district as solidly Republican, and the state’s western district as competitive, but likely Republican.

Cook Political based its analysis on past presidential election results. It rates districts that are more competitive as a toss-up or leans toward one party.

Montana State University political science professor Eric Raile says there is one caveat to that methodology.

“The House races don’t look just like the presidential race in Montana," he said. "We’ve seen Democrats win Senate seats and we’ve seen Democratic governors, so I don’t know that those dynamics translate perfectly."

Raile noted that a Democrat hasn’t won a House seat in Montana in nearly three decades, and Republicans swept the state’s last election — a sign the state’s political leanings are changing.

“I don’t know if we’d call it purple after the last cycle," he said.

The state will elect two U.S. House representatives this year. Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale will run as an incumbent in the eastern district.

When Montana’s Districting and Apportionment Commission drew the two House districts last fall, Democrats pushed for a political map that would result in a tighter race in the west. But the commission’s nonpartisan chair, Maylinn Smith, sided with Republicans to make districts that are more compact and less competitive.

The Democrats’ proposed map would have put Kalispell in the east and Helena in the west, but the final map has that switched.

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