Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson.

HELENA -- Former Secretary of State Brad Johnson, a consultant from East Helena, said Thursday he is running to regain the job he lost to Democratic Secretary of State Linda McCulloch in 2008.

Johnson, 60, said he wants to build on the successes during his 2005-2009 tenure as secretary of state, who oversees elections and state business records.

He said his accomplishments included implementing the federal Help America Vote Act and moving the majority of annual business report filings to an electronic online system, a move that saved money and cut down the processing time. Johnson also cited the revamping of the management system for the administrative rules of Montana and upgrading the office's technology.

In 2008, McCulloch, then superintendent of public instruction, defeated Johnson by about 5,300 votes, while a Constitution Party candidate collected about 11,700 votes.

McCulloch already is raising money for her re-election campaign.

"My campaign is not going to be about tearing down Linda McCulloch and her administration," Johnson said. "It's going to be about the successes we had in the first term and continuing to realize the vision I had for the future of the office."

For a rematch against McCulloch, however, Johnson first must defeat Scott Aspenlieder, an engineer from Helena, for the Republican nomination for secretary of state in the June 2012 primary.

"Right off the bat, there's a tremendous difference in terms of experience," Johnson said. "I have four years as secretary of state. When I walk back into that office, I'll be ready to hit the ground running. There is no learning curve there for me."

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The secretary of state is one of five statewide elected officials on the state Land Board.

Johnson said the board hasn't been as aggressive as needed in pursuing responsible development of natural resources on state lands. He said it took far longer than necessary to develop the state-owned coal reserves at Otter Creek.

"I think there's a real need for a voice on the Land Board that will be a champion for more responsible development of our natural resources," he said.

The Land Board in March 2010 accepted Arch Coal's $86 million upfront bid to lease 570 millon tons of state-owned coal in the Otter Creek valley, 150 miles east of Billings.

Johnson in 2010 lost a GOP primary bid for the Public Service Commission seat from District 5 shortly after he pleaded guilty to drunken driving and checked himself into a month-long alcohol treatment program. The breathalyzer test found Johnson had registered a blood-alcohol content of 0.24 percent, or three times the legal limit.

"That experience was incredibly painful, but also life-changing," Johnson said Thursday. "As a result of that, I realized that I had a problem. I confronted that problem head on. I voluntarily entered treatment. I haven't had a drink since before I went to treatment. I'm just incredibly comfortable in that sober lifestyle."

Besides the races for secretary of state and PSC, Johnson lost bids for the U.S. Senate in 2002 and Montana's western U.S. House seat, since eliminated, in 1990.

Since leaving the secretary of state's office, Johnson said he has done some consulting and is working with a group trying to develop a small-scale alternative energy venture.

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