HELENA — Montana voters will decide Tuesday the Democratic nominee in the campaign for U.S. House. Democrats see the open seat as their best chance in years of retaking Montana's only seat in Congress. Here are five things to know about the primary:
Who's running: One-time state House speaker John Driscoll is running against John Lewis, who is making his first run for office after serving 12 years as an aide to former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus.
Big money vs. next-to-nil: Driscoll has taken no campaign contributions and limited his budget to $5,000 of his own money. Driscoll says if he's nominated, however, he will take campaign contributions to help him in the November election. Lewis, on the other hand, had raised more than $754,000 by mid-May.
Who's favored? Conventional wisdom would have Lewis cruising to an easy victory - he's already spent roughly 50 times more money than Driscoll and racked up big-name endorsements. But Driscoll has defied the odds-makers before. In 2008, the retired U.S. Army colonel and former public service commissioner won the U.S. House Democratic primary by edging out a Helena lawyer who had support from party leaders, and did so without taking a dime in contributions. The question is whether Driscoll can deliver a repeat.
Lewis in Baucus' shadow? Lewis could find it hard to escape the shadow of Baucus, his former boss. Baucus served six terms as a U.S. senator before stepping down earlier this year to become the ambassador to China. Opponents have sought to chip away at Lewis by saying he had a central role in crafting the bill that became the nation's health care overhaul, which is unpopular in the state. Republicans have seized on the Baucus-Lewis connection with a "johnlewis4congress" website that urges Lewis to "retire from Washington."
After the primary: The winner of the June 3 primary will appear on the November ballot against the Republican nominee. The winner in November will replace Republican Steve Daines in Montana's sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Daines is vacating the seat to run for U.S. Senate. Democrats last won the U.S. House seat in 1994.