HELENA — Incumbent Republican House members in Missoula and Kalispell went down to defeat in primary elections Tuesday, while another Republican House member lost his bid to defeat an incumbent state senator.
In Kalispell, Rep. Bernie Olson, a Republican moderate targeted by members of his own party, lost to challenger Mark Blasdel, also of Kalispell.
And in Missoula, one-term Republican Rep. John Balyeat lost to Missoula businessman Bill Nooney.
The races are some of several high-profile primaries statewide, as Democrats and Republicans prepare for a showdown this fall over control of the Legislature.
Democrats have a 27-23 edge in the Senate now, and the House is tied 50-50 between the parties.
Several other important legislative races were too close to call late Tuesday.
Here's a look at final and partial results in these races:
- House District 10, south Kalispell: Olson, who sided with Democrats on several key votes during the 2005 legislative sessions, lost by a nearly 2-to-1 margin against Blasdel.
- HD66, central Bozeman: In another expensive House primary, Democrat Mike Phillips led in early returns over Tracy Velazquez, the vice-chair of the state Democratic Party.
- HD100, west Missoula County: Nooney defeated Balyeat in a light turnout, winning by only 150 votes but still taking 60 percent of the total. Nooney will face Democrat Marge Zaveta of Lolo in the fall in this potential swing district.
- SD8, Flathead and Blackfeet Indian reservations: Rep. Carol Juneau, D-Browning, had a narrow lead over Kevin Howlett of Arlee in early returns for this open seat. The winner will face Libertarian candidate Maria Folson for the seat.