WHERE THINGS STAND IN MONTANA TODAY
For a state so red at the Presidential level, Montana has a decidedly independent streak, and is unafraid to elect Democrats to other major offices.
As Donald Trump was winning the state’s Electoral Votes by 20 points in 2016, Democrat Steve Bullock was winning the Governorship the same year by almost 4 points.
In the 2017 Special Election for the statewide Congressional District, the Democrat came within 5 points of the eventual Republican winner, narrowing the gap from the 16 point-win in the same race less than a year earlier.
In 2018, Democratic Senator Jon Tester fended off a threat and got re-elected. The Democrats flipped one seat in the Montana State House and two seats in the Montana State Senate. And the Republican representing the state’s sole Congressional district won again by only 5 points.
The point is that despite being a reliably Republican state at the very top of the ticket, Montana remains unpredictable everywhere else.
And that fuels the 8 reasons why Montana is so important this year:
REASON 1 – SENDING STEVE BULLOCK TO THE SENATE
Democrats who want to flip the United States Senate got the break of a lifetime when popular Governor Steve Bullock threw his hat into the ring. Before he declared himself as a candidate, Democrats had little chance of unseating Republican Steve Daines. But the moment Steve Bullock announced his candidacy, the race went from “Safe Republican” to “Toss-Up”.
Like Jon Tester, Steve Bullock is exactly the kind of candidate who can win this race. And he can win it with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket. After all he did the same thing in 2016. But Senate races tend to hew more closely to Presidential races, so a lot of work will be required.
In fact I predict that this will be the closest Senate race of 2020.
And if we win, we are near-guaranteed to control the Senate next year.
Fight tooth-and-nail for this one.
REASON 2 – KEEPING THE MONTANA GOVERNORSHIP
Winning the Montana Governor’s race represents Democrats’ best opportunity to maintain a seat at the table of state government in Montana.
Montana has had a Democratic Governor since 2005, and we need to keep that streak going by electing current Lt. Governor Mike Cooney.
His opponent? Current Republican Congressman for Montana’s sole Congressional district Greg Gianforte, who is most famously known for assaulting a reporter during his 2017 Special Election campaign, and is not the kind of person Montanans should have as their Governor.
One other item of importance: While Montana only has 1 Congressional District, experts anticipate that Montana will pick up a 2nd Congressional District next year…and another Electoral Vote.
If that happens, Montana will need to worry about redistricting at both the Congressional and State Legislative levels, which would mean that Democrats need a voice in that decision-making process.
Which brings us to…
REASON 3 – FLIPPING THE MONTANA STATE HOUSE
There are 100 seats in the Montana State House. All 100 seats are up for election. Democrats need a net gain of +9 seats to take full control of the chamber. This would not be an easy task, but it’s not out of the question either when you look at how some of the districts have trended over the last two elections.
Conversely, a net gain of +8 seats for Republican would give the GOP a veto-proof supermajority.
You can view the maps for these districts here:
REASON 4 – MAKE GAINS IN THE MONTANA STATE SENATE
There are 50 seats in the Montana State Senate. But only 25 of the 50 seats are up for election in 2020, which makes the task of flipping it blue rather difficult. Democrats need a net gain of +6 seats to take full control of the chamber.
Conversely a net gain of +4 seats for Republicans would give them a veto proof majority.
You can view the maps for these districts here:
REASON 5 – MONTANA’S AT-LARGE DISTRICT
While this seat isn’t consequential to the Democratic House Majority, there are three sub-reasons why I’d like to flip it.
First, it would be great to have a Democrat represent Montana in the House after 23 years of Republican control, especially after it’s been represented by a violent thug like Greg Gianforte.
Second – and I admit this is childish – but when they put together the post-2020 map of House seats controlled by Democrats, I would love to see that big patch of Montana blue in the middle of all of that red.
Third, the Democratic candidate is the excellent Kathleen Williams. She ran in 2018 and shrank the margin from 2016 significantly, losing by only a few points. And given that her 2020 opponent is considered weak after losing to Jon Tester in the 2018 Senate race, Kathleen can win this seat with our help.
REASON 6 – OTHER STATE GOVERNMENT RACES
There is a slew of other statewide elections that Democrats are competing in that deserve our attention:
Public Service Commission – This commission is made up of 5 members and is responsible for state oversight of energy, telecommunications, water, transportation, and pipelines. All 5 seats are currently held by Republicans and 3 of the 5 seats are up for election this year. If Democrats win all 3, they take control of the Commission.
District 2 Democratic Nominee – Valerie McMurtry
District 3 Democratic Nominee – Tom Woods
District 4 Democratic Nominee – Monica Tranel
You can see maps of the Commission Districts here:
REASON 7 – MONTANA STATE SUPREME COURT
The Montana State Supreme Court is made up of 7 Justices. Two of them are up for election this year.
Jim Shea, who was appointed by Democrat Steve Bullock, faces no opposition for his re-election to Seat 6.
Laurie McKinnon, who was first elected in 2012, is running for re-election against Mike Black for Seat 5.
These races are non-partisan, so it’s not easily discernible which candidate aligns with which party. But Mike Black appears to be the better choice, having worked with Steve Bullock back when Bullock was Montana’s Attorney General. And when Laurie McKinnon was first elected in 2012, it was with the help of dark money from deep-pocketed Republican operatives engaging in dirty tactics and illegal acts that resulted in various fines.
REASON 8 – 3 ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTES
Are they necessary? Probably not.
Would they be nice? Yep!
Similar to my comment on the House race above, imagine looking at a 2020 map and seeing that big state of Montana in a nice shade of blue.
Thank you for taking the time to read about why Montana is so important this year.
Keep in mind that these are not the only reasons to Focus on Montana in 2020. There are a number of other local elections worth your time and attention as well.
If you’d like to help Focus on Montana, please sign up HERE for the DemCast “Focus14” Montana effort.
And for more analysis, follow me at @trumpstaxes on Twitter.
DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.