Montana political parties prepare for special conventions


MISSOULA, Mont. - Thursday marked the first day on the job for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Montana's former U.S. representative who was confirmed into President Donald Trump's cabinet Wednesday.

Montana political parties are gearing up for a special election to replace Zinke's seat on May 25. The special election will be the first of its kind in Montana's history.

All major political parties must submit their nominee to the Secretary of State's office 75 days before the special election, according to Secretary of State Corey Stapleton's spokeswoman Morgan Williams.

Montana's Republican and Democratic parties announced they will hold their special nominating conventions in the coming days.

Montana Democrats will meet at 10 a.m. this Sunday in the ballroom at the Best Western Premier Great Northern Hotel, 835 Great Northern Boulevard, in Helena.

The Montana Republican Party's convention will be held at 6 p.m. Monday at the same hotel in Helena.

Both parties say the nomination process could take several hours.

Attendees to the conventions will include state representatives, delegates and members of central committees.

Each party follow its own nomination and convention rules.

For the Montana Democrats, State Rep. Ellie Hill Smith (D-Missoula) said, "each candidate will give a stump speech, and then the party leaders around the state will choose."

Will Deschamps, former party chair for the Montana Republican Party and a delegate this year said, "(The Republican candidates) will have a separate room so that people like me, who are delegates, can go visit with each of the people who are hoping to run for the nomination."

Each party's voting system varies -- some have rounds of voting, for others majority takes all. Read more about the Republican and Democratic parties' convention policies.

Hill and Deschamps have high hopes for their parties' next candidates.

"I think the Democrats need to put forward someone who appeals from baby boomers to millennials and everybody from Missoula to Miles City," Hill said. "I tell folks that the legislature taught me a lot, and that is that Montana is as diverse and as big as the big skies."

Hill added she hopes the candidate is somebody who accompanies values and represents what Montana looks like.

Deschamps said, "I'm looking for the most conservative person that can win the general election." He added he wants the candidate who can win the seat and most number of votes for their party.

Hill and Deschamps say front-runner candidates are already making their mark.

"I think right now the two names that are leading would be Greg Gianforte and Sen. Ed Buttrey," Deschamps said.

Hill said, "Strong runners right now seem to be Rep. Amanda Curtis and Rob Quist -- a well-known musician here in Montana."

The special election means a chance for the Democrats to reclaim a seat occupied by the Republican Party for the last two years.

Candidates who've announced their intent to run include state lawmakers, political newcomers, teachers and, as Hill mentioned, a musician.

The Montana Republican candidates as of Thursday include:

Samuel Pascal Redfern; an Iraq combat veteran from Missoula Ed Buttrey; state senator from Great Falls Greg Gianforte; Bozeman technology entrepreneur and previous gubernatorial nominee Carl Glimm; state representative from Kila Ken Miller; former state senator from Laurel Dean Rehbein; Missoula contractor Ed Walker; former state senator from Billings

The Montana Democratic candidates as of Thursday include:

Amanda Curtis; state representative from Butte Kelly McCarthy; state representative from Billings John Meyer; Bozeman attorney Link Neimark; Whitefish business owner Gary Stein; Missoula high school teacher Rob Quist; former Mission Mountain Wood Band musician from Creston Tom Weida; retired Helena businessman Dan West; former NASA congressional liaison

Chosen nominees are required to file a $1,740 fee with the Secretary of State's office 75 days prior to Election Day.