Many Montanans scoping out 2012 political races

2011-06-12T00:00:00Z 2012-03-26T13:45:22Z Many Montanans scoping out 2012 political racesBy CHARLES S. JOHNSON Gazette State Bureau The Billings Gazette

HELENA -- While Republican state Sen. Jim Shockley has been campaigning for attorney general for the past year, the Democratic side of the 2012 race remains in flux.

Three potential Democratic candidates -- Pam Bucy and Jesse Laslovich of Helena and Tyler Gernant of Missoula -- are waiting to see whether Attorney General Steve Bullock, also a Democrat, runs for governor or re-election.

"I am considering that, contingent on Steve," said Bucy, chief legal counsel for the state Department of Labor and Industry. "I'm exploring those options. I'm talking to people about it and talking to Steve."

Laslovich, chief legal counsel for the state auditor's office and a former Anaconda legislator, said, "I'm definitely seriously considering running for attorney general."

Gernant, an attorney for a private practice in Missoula, said, "I have been looking at the attorney general's race. I'm kind of in the exploratory phase." He was runner-up in the four-way Democratic primary for the U.S. House last year.

Meanwhile, Shockley, a private attorney in Victor, said he is in the race for good.

"I said I was in June 2010, and I didn't change my mind and don't intend to change my mind," the Republican said.

Shockley said he'll remain in the race, despite being ticketed in January for having an open container of alcohol in his vehicle after an off-duty sheriff in Missoula saw him drinking a beer on Interstate 90. His blood alcohol content was 0.03 percent, less than half of the legal intoxication limit for drivers of 0.08 percent. He paid a $51 fine.

"It wasn't a good idea," Shockley said. "I'm sorry it happened."

Republican Tim Fox, a private attorney in Helena who lost to Bullock in 2008, was noncommittal about running for the post in 2012.

"I haven't made any decisions," he said. "Never say never."

Here's a look at some of the other races:

Secretary of state: Linda McCulloch, a Democrat, is seeking re-election. She previously was state superintendent of public instruction after serving in the Legislature.

On the Republican side, Scott Aspenlieder, a civil engineer from Helena, said will announce his candidacy for the office Monday.

Ex-Secretary of State Brad Johnson, whom McCulloch unseated in 2008, is eyeing the office.

"I still very much feel called to public service and very much want to enter that arena in 2012," Johnson said. "Certainly the secretary of state would be one of those offices that would be on the list. I left a lot of work unfinished there."

Former House Speaker Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, said he's considering running for secretary of state or possibly auditor, but hasn't decided yet.

Also taking a look is Gary Carlson of Victor, who lost a bid for the western district congressional seat against Democratic Rep. Pat Williams in 1984 and served briefly as state GOP executive director in 2009-2010. Carlson ran a Defense Department program under President Ronald Reagan.

State auditor: Monica Lindeen, the Democratic incumbent, is running for another term. So far, she has no Republican opposition. Sales mentioned it as a possibility, along with secretary of state.

Sen. Jason Priest, R-Red Lodge, has been mentioned as a possible auditor candidate, but he sounded more inclined to remain in the Senate, where he is a holdover senator.

"At this point, I haven't ruled anything in or out," Priest said. "I really like the job I have, and I'm pretty committed to doing the best job I can there and fulfilling the job that I have."

Superintendent of public instruction: Democratic incumbent Denise Juneau is running for re-election. No Republican challengers have emerged, although Carlson said he might consider it if he doesn't run for secretary of state.

Public Service Commission, District 2: This will be an open seat in the southeastern Montana district because Commissioner Brad Molnar, R-Laurel, is term-limited.

Chuck Tooley, mayor of Billings from 1988-93, said he will be running as a Democrat for the PSC in 2012.

State Sen. Lynda Moss, D-Billings, said she's been asked to consider running for the PSC and is looking at that and other options.

On the Republican side, former state Sen. Roy Brown, R-Billings, has been mentioned as a potential candidate.

"I've thought a little bit about it, but I haven't made up my mind if I want to run for anything next year," said Brown, the GOP nominee for governor in 2008.

Rep. James Knox, R-Billings, said he considered the PSC race but decided to run for re-election to the state House.

PSC, District 3: Commissioner John Vincent, D-Gallatin Gateway, has dropped plans to run for governor and instead will seek re-election to his seat representing southwestern and south-central Montana.

On the Republican side, Jim Brown, a lawyer who practices in Dillon and Helena, said he's been asked to run for the PSC but isn't ready to announce his candidacy yet.

PSC, District 4: The race may turn out to be a rematch of the 2008 campaign when Democrat Gale Gutsche of Missoula unseated Republican incumbent Doug Mood of Seeley Lake for the seat representing western and northwestern Montana. Now Gutsche is the incumbent, and Mood may be the challenger.

"I'm tentatively looking at the prospect," said Mood, a former House speaker. "We'll see how the political winds are blowing and what's going on with my own life."

Rep. Champ Edmonds, R-Missoula, said he was asked to run for the PSC, but decided to seek re-election.

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