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HELENA - Being Montana's lieutenant governor is either the fast lane to becoming governor or a slow ticket to political oblivion.

Except for heading the Drought Advisory Council, Montana's lieutenant governor has no duties spelled out by law, save for those assigned by the governor.

Before the 1976 election, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor ran separately, sometimes producing a governor from one party and a lieutenant governor from the other. Or sometimes the governor and lieutenant governor would be on opposite philosophical ends of the same party. The 1972 Montana Constitution requires candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to run as a team.

Here's a quick look at Montana's lieutenant governors since 1961:

• Tim Babcock, R-Billings, trucking executive and lawmaker, was elected lieutenant governor in 1960 and ascended to governor Jan. 25, 1962, when Gov. Donald Nutter, was killed in a plane crash. He won a full term in 1964 but lost his re-election bid in 1968. He has lobbied on federal and state issues since.

• Ted James, R-Great Falls, an attorney, was elected lieutenant governor in 1964. A progressive, James didn't get along with conservative Babcock. He lost to Babcock in the 1968 GOP primary and returned to legal practice and headed the Board of Regents under a Democratic governor.

• Thomas L. Judge, D-Helena, an advertising agency owner and lawmaker, was elected lieutenant governor in 1968. He won the 1972 governor's race after Democratic Gov. Forrest H. Anderson didn't seek re-election. He was re-elected in 1976 but lost a bid for a third term to his lieutenant governor in 1980. He lost a comeback bid in 1988. He has worked as a consultant and real estate and investments salesman.

• Bill Christiansen, D-Hardin, a car dealer and lawmaker, was elected in 1972 and became Montana's first full-time lieutenant governor. After he and Judge didn't get along, Christiansen contemplated challenging Judge in the 1976 primary but decided against it. He retired after the term ended.

• Ted Schwinden, D-Wolf Point, a farmer and lawmaker, was chosen in 1976 as Judge's running mate, the first time a pair ran together officially, and was elected. He defeated Judge for governor in the Democratic primary in 1980 and won the general election. He was re-elected governor in 1984 and retired when his term ended in early 1989.

• George Turman, D-Missoula, public service commissioner and legislator, was tapped by Schwinden as his 1980 running mate and elected in 1980 and 1984. He resigned as lieutenant governor in 1988 to join the Northwest Power Planning Council. He later headed the National Center for Appropriate Technology and is retired in Missoula.

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• Gordon McOmber, D-Fairfield, farmer and lawmaker, was chosen by Schwinden to replace Turman in 1988 and served out the rest of the term. He retired after leaving office.

• Allen Kolstad, R-Chester, farmer and lawmaker, was elected on the ticket headed by Stan Stephens in 1988. He lost a 1990 bid to defeat Democratic Sen. Max Baucus. He resigned as lieutenant governor in 1991 to take a presidential appointment on the International Boundary Commission. He now farms in the Chester area.

• Denny Rehberg, R-Billings, congressional aide and lawmaker, was appointed by Stephens to replace Kolstad in 1991. He then was elected lieutenant governor in 1992 on a ticket headed by Marc Racicot. He didn't seek re-election in 1996 but failed in a bid to unseat Baucus. He was elected to Congress in 2000, 2002 and 2004.

• Judy Martz, R-Butte, congressional aide, was picked by Racicot to be his running mate in successful 1996 race. She was elected governor in 2000, but did not run again in 2004. Martz plans to return to Butte and hopes to get on corporate and charity boards and on the national speakers' circuit.

• Karl Ohs, R-Harrison, rancher and lawmaker, was chosen by Martz as her running mate in her successful 2000 race. Ohs did not seek political office in 2004.

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