Filing opened on Thursday for the 2018 primary elections, and the early indicators are that Montana and Flathead County will both see a heated campaign for a number of important offices.
Former County Fair Manager Jay Scott and legislator Randy Brodehl both filed as Republicans to run for the District 3 county commissioner seat currently held by Gary Krueger. Scott lost the primary by just 23 votes in 2012, and it is expected Krueger will file for re-election. Even with no other GOP candidates, this promises to be a battle royale. We also fully expect at least one Democrat to enter the fray as well.
Perhaps the most anticipated race of the year will be for Flathead County sheriff. There is some reason to believe that current Sheriff Chuck Curry may not run again, which may explain why two people have already filed for the job, with more on the way. Former Undersheriff Jordan White and longtime lawman Calvin Beringer have both filed as Republicans. Patrol Commander Brian Heino and Sgt. Keith Stahlberg have also announced that they plan to run. These are all good candidates, so it will be interesting to see how it shakes out.
Longtime County Attorney Chuck Corrigan plans to retire, creating the potential for another highly contested race. So far, only Deputy County Attorney Travis Ahner has filed, but we fully expect to see more names in this one by the time filing closes on March 12.
In statewide races, we all know that Sen. Jon Tester will seek re-election as Montana’s senator, though he has not filed as of yet. There could be token opposition in the Democratic primary, but the real battle will be among the Republicans to see who wins the opportunity to challenge Tester. So far Bozeman businessman Troy Downing and Kalispell physician and legislator Al Olszewski have filed, with State Auditor Matt Rosendale expected to follow suit. The House race will focus on Democratic efforts to unseat Rep. Greg Gianforte. Four Democrats filed on opening day, and John Heenan, Grant Kier, Lynda Moss and Kathleen Williams will probably not be the last.
No matter which side of the political fray you favor, we should all be glad that our democracy is alive and well — and that voters will have plenty of important choices to make in the coming year.