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Brown concedes to Gustafson in contentious Supreme Court race; Rice holds onto seat

 James Brown and Ingrid Gustafson
James Brown has conceded to incumbent Justice Ingrid Gustafson.
James Brown and Ingrid Gustafson

Republican utility regulator James Brown has conceded a race for the Montana Supreme Court to incumbent justice Ingrid Gustafson.

According to election results from the Associated Press, Gustafson held a nearly 10-percentage point lead early Wednesday morning. The AP has not yet called the race.

In his concession statement, Brown congratulated Gustafson on her election and told supporters “we can’t give up on our shared goal to restore accountability in our judicial branch and bring balance to the Montana Supreme Court."

A press release from Montana Supreme Court candidate James Brown congratulating Ingrid Gustafoson on her victory in the race.
James Brown
A press release from Montana Supreme Court candidate James Brown congratulating Ingrid Gustafoson on her victory in the race.

The highly politicized race became the most expensive in Montana history for the state Supreme Court.

Brown’s campaign received support from top GOP officials, the National Republican Leadership Judicial Fairness Initiative and the state’s business community.

Gustafson’s re-election campaign was backed by Democrats, former Republican Governor Marc Racicot, the Montana Trial Lawyers Association and Planned Parenthood PAC.

Gustafson was initially appointed to the high court in 2017 by former Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock. Before that, former Republican Gov. Judy Martz tapped Gustafson to become district court judge in Yellowstone County.
Montana’s longest serving member of the state Supreme Court, Justice Jim Rice, also won reelection to the bench, according to a race call from the Associated Press. The AP called the race around 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Montanans overwhelmingly backed Rice over Billings attorney Bill D’Alton for the seat with the incumbent receiving more than 75% of the vote when the race was called.

Rice was first seated on the state high court in 2001, appointed by former Republican Gov. Judy Martz.

The seven justices of the Montana Supreme Court are nonpartisan elected positions serving eight-year terms.

Copyright 2022 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Shaylee is a UM Journalism School student. She reports and helps produce Montana Evening News on MTPR.
Corin Cates-Carney is the Flathead Valley reporter for MTPR.