Races Heat Up For Montana Regulated Utilities Board

Mar 9, 2020

Edit May 20: This story has been corrected to reflect that Will Deschamps of Missoula is a former Montana Republican party chairman.

Mar. 9 marked the filing deadline for public office in Montana. 

Three seats are up for reelection on the Republican-dominated Public Service Commission. The commission sets customer rates and approves new power, water and legacy telecommunications projects.

In southeast Montana, two Republicans are challenging Commissioner Tony O’Donnell’s incumbency. State representative Daniel Zolnikov and former PSC commissioner Kirk Bushman, both of Billings, are running for District 2. Retired teacher Valerie McMurtry, also of Billings, is running as a Democrat.

In southwest Montana, Commissioner Roger Koopman of District 3 is terming out.

Running for his seat are Republicans lawyer James Brown of Dillon and engineer Alan George of Belgrade, Democratic State Representative Tom Woods of Bozeman, and Independent analyst Rob Elwood of Harlowton.

Also terming out is Commissioner and Vice Chairman Republican Bob Lake of District 4. Lake’s district represents counties in western Montana along the border with Idaho.

Current candidates for that seat are former Montana Republican party chairman Will Deschamps of Missoula, former state representative Republican Champ Edmunds of Darby, Democratic environmentalist Daniel Carlino of Missoula, and attorney and former PSC staffer Monica Tranel of Missoula.

Update Mar. 12, 2020: Jennifer Fielder, a state lawmaker from Thompson Falls, has also filed to run as a Republican for PSC District 4.

PSC Chairman Brad Johnson has filed to run as a Republican for Secretary of State, a seat he previously held from 2004 to 2008. Johnson's term representing District 5 on the PSC is up in January 2023.

The primary is June 2.