Local Democrats question some primary challengers' motives


BOZEMAN, Mont. - The clock is ticking down to Montana's primary election. Some surprise challengers have Democrats on the defensive.

In Montana you can file as any party you want. For example, former Lt. Governor John Bohlinger, a former Republican, filed as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate.

However some are questioning several races in the Bozeman area, specifically when it comes to the ideals of the democratic candidates.


Two democratic candidates battling it out in the primary for Senate District 34 are April Buonamici and Mike Comstock. Both are running on the democratic ticket, but seem to have different ideas on what a democrat really is.

We met with Comstock after seeing allegations on a liberal political blog, Montana Cowgirl, that portrays Comstock as a conservative extremist.

Comstock said his views are not extremist, but rather right down the middle.

"I like to think of myself of a Democrat, maybe along the lines of John F. Kennedy, Mike Mansfield, or John Tester," said Comstock.

In 2010, he ran as a Republican for Senate District 32 in the Bozeman area. He explained when it comes to party affiliation, he could go either way.

"When I jumped in the race, the opponents were running as Republicans, so I decided to run as a Democrat," he said. "So if there was a Democrat running, I would have run as a Republican."

He says he is different from his opponent, April Buonamici.

"I'm sure April is far to the left of where I am, but she is probably far to the left of most people in Gallatin County- especially Senate District 34," said Comstock.

"He is a nice man, however politically we are not in the same camp," said Buonamici.

She's Secretary for Gallatin County Democrats, and explains local Democratic Party members called her just last week asking her to run after they discovered Comstock had filed.

"We have someone running in a district where we know he is not a Democrat and the Democratic Party will not endorse or support him," she said. "We need a real Democrat to run against him."

But who represents the district as the democratic candidate will ultimately be up to voters. Buonamici tells us the race will just have to run its course.

"I think Mr. Comstock should speak for himself and I will be speaking for myself," she said.


We also dug into concerns over three other candidates who are running for democratic seats: Dane Peeples for House District 62, Laura Springer for House District 63, and Harry Pennington for Senate District 32.

All three candidates listed the same address when they filed.

NBC Montana called Laura Springer on Thursday afternoon. She admitted she used to consider herself a Republican, but stated she has been disappointed with the party.

She explained she is currently "between homes" and mentioned that candidate Harry Pennington was homeless- so she said Dane Peeples offered for both of them to use his address when filing.

But Springer said Thursday she planned to withdraw from the race because of a family emergency.

A check of Harry Pennington's facebook page shows it is littered with anti-Obama rhetoric, despite his democratic candidacy.

On Thursday night he was at Bozeman's Warming Center. Pennington refused to talk to NBC Montana directly, but told a Warming Center employee that he too plans to drop out of the race.

The Warming Center employee said Pennington and Springer both regularly stay at the homeless shelter.

They also said the third candidate, Dane Peeples, works for the Human Development Resource Council, which runs the Warming Center.

Peeples is running as a Democrat in House District 62, but liberal blog Montana Cowgirl alleges Peeples is a Tea Party member and part of a local militia group.

We attempted to contact Peeples multiple times to speak with him ourselves. We left him voice mails and showed up at his house on three separate occasions.

A woman at the home confirmed he lives there and told us to come back later, but when we came back, residents inside the home refused to answer the door.

NBC Montana is still working to get in contact with Peeples.