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Former Billings Head Start director Kathy Kelker is the new Democratic candidate in House District 47.

Kelker was selected by Yellowstone County Democrats Tuesday night to replace incumbent Rep. Mary McNally on the November ballot. McNally is withdrawing from the HD 47 race to replace current Sen. Kendall Van Dyk in the race for Senate District 24. Both districts represent portions of central Billings north of Grand Avenue.

“It’s the same area that she served when she was on the school board," Kelly McCarthy, Yellowstone County Democratic Party chairman said of Kelker. "So, she understands the district really well, understands the people really well and has lived in the area for a very long time."

McCarthy said Kelker’s experience with Head Start would be a party asset when the 2015 Legislature takes up Gov. Steve Bullock’s early childhood development initiative.

In addition to directing Billings Head Start, Kelker was chairman of the Billings Public Schools board of trustees for five years and a board member of several community organizations.

Van Dyk's first child is expected later this year. The lawmaker cited family commitments when he withdrew his candidacy this spring.

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McNally will take on Republican Tonya Shellnutt in SD 24. 

Kelker will meet Republican Joshua Sizemore in HD 47.

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Politics and agriculture reporter for The Billings Gazette.