Gazette opinion: Contested races challenge voters to be well informed

2014-03-12T00:00:00Z 2014-03-14T15:19:09Z Gazette opinion: Contested races challenge voters to be well informed The Billings Gazette
March 12, 2014 12:00 am

It’s good to have choices.

After a virtual stampede of last-day filings, Montanans will have choices in most state office races this November.

The Montana Democratic Party is fielding candidates in all 100 state House races and for all 25 state Senate seats. (The other 25 Senate seats are held by senators just halfway through their four-year terms.)

Republican candidates filed in all but two state Senate contests and all but 14 House races. However, Republicans will have more choices on the June 3 primary ballots with 29 contested races in the House and 12 in the Senate.

More than one Democrat will be on the primary ballot in five Senate races and 20 House races.

All these candidates add up to important choices for Montana voters. The number of candidates and the efforts of political parties to recruit candidates will contribute to a robust elections process.

In Yellowstone County, voters also will have real choices for several county offices.

Commission contest

Although county commissioners recently have run unopposed for re-election, incumbent Commissioner John Ostlund will face a Democratic challenger in November, either Darryl Wilson or Jim Ronquillo, depending on who wins the primary.

After Max Lenington said he wouldn’t seek re-election as Yellowstone County treasurer/assessor/superintendent of schools, five candidates filed for that office. Sherry Long, Marci Schafer, William Selph and Richard Nixon will square off in the Republican primary. The winner will run against Democrat Patty Driscoll in November.

Judicial candidates

District Judge G. Todd Baugh’s decision to retire helped generate five candidates to replace him: Corbit Harrington, Michael Moses, Bill O’Connor, William Speare and Rod Souza.

Both Yellowstone County justices of the peace have opposition. Dave Valdez is challenging David Carter, who was appointed to the bench in January. Michael Mayott and Steven Feuerstein are seeking to replace Pedro Hernandez.

Sheriff’s Deputy Valarie Juhl announced that she will run as an independent against her boss, Sheriff Mike Linder, a Republican. By law, Juhl must file a petition with 1,615 registered voters’ signatures by May 27 to get on the November ballot as an independent.

Incumbent County Auditor Debby Hernandez will face Rebecca Rhodes West in the Republican primary.

7 for U.S. Senate

The congressional races will be the most hotly contested. Although U.S. Sen. John Walsh and U.S. Rep. Steve Daines are considered the front-runners for U.S. Senate, each will have opposition in the June primaries. Former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger and Dirk Adams also are seeking the Democratic nomination. State Rep. Champ Edmunds and Susan Cundiff, both of Missoula, round out the Republican field. Libertarian Roger Roots of Livingston also is running.

8 for U.S. House

The U.S. House race appears to be wide open with eight candidates. State Sen. Elsie Arntzen of Billings, former state Sen. Corey Stapleton of Billings, state Sen. Matt Rosendale of Glendive, Drew Turiano of Helena and former state Sen. Ryan Zinke of Whitefish are vying for the GOP nomination. On the Democratic ballot are John Lewis and John Driscoll, both of Helena. Mike Fellows of Missoula is running on the Libertarian ticket.

June 3 may seem like a long time away, but voters need to pay attention to these candidates now. It’s time to get acquainted with the people who want to represent you in the county courthouse, the state Legislature and on Capitol Hill.

Informing voters

The Gazette staff will work to bring readers information on candidates. We will strive to make them address issues of importance to Montana in Gazette news articles and opinion pages. The Gazette opinion pages will provide a forum for people in our region to discuss election issues in letters to the editor. We will encourage fulsome debate that focuses on issues and qualification for public office. We will discourage insults, name-calling and other personal attacks.

We thank the candidates for giving Montanans some good choices. The people and the press must hold them accountable for conducting campaigns worthy of the public offices they want voters to entrust to them.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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