NATIONAL NEWS

Montana GOP seeks to bar 3rd parties from key US Senate race

Apr 14, 2023, 11:49 AM | Updated: 2:56 pm

FILE - Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., speaks before during a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs ...

FILE - Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., speaks before during a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing, May 10, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Republican state lawmakers in Montana are advancing legislation that would alter next year's U.S. Senate primary in an apparent bid to thwart the re-election of Sen. Jon Tester, one of several Democrats on the ballot in GOP-leaning states. (Tom Williams/Pool via AP, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Tom Williams/Pool via AP, File)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Libertarians lined up with Democrats on Friday against a proposal that would effectively Republicans try to consolidate opposition to incumbent Jon Tester in a race pivotal for control of the Senate.

Republicans who control the state Legislature want to alter the 2024 Senate primary in Montana so that only the top two candidates, no matter their party, advance to the November election. Past races for Tester’s seat were close enough that many Republicans blamed third party candidates for draining away potential GOP votes and giving the Democrat the victory.

Critics blasted the proposal during a Montana House committee meeting as a blatant attempt to rig the election.

“It will completely block us out,” said Montana Libertarian Party Chairman Sid Daoud. “It’s going to eliminate any third party or independent candidate from moving to the general election.”

Democrats hold a narrow 51-49 U.S. Senate majority. They will be defending 23 seats next year including in some states — Montana, West Virginia and Ohio – that have grown increasingly Republican. The GOP will be defending 10 seats and also trying to flip seats in swing states such as Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Republicans are eager to deny Tester a fourth term after GOP candidates dominated recent elections in Montana. Tester is the only Democrat now holding statewide political office.

The Republican sponsor of the proposed primary changes, state Sen. Greg Hertz, said during Friday’s hearing that he wanted to stop the GOP and Democrats alike from trying to manipulate elections by stealthily promoting third party candidates.

Emails included in the legislative file for the bill show that longtime Republican lobbyist Chuck Denowh helped shape the measure.

On March 26, Denowh suggested to Hertz, a second lawmaker and legislative staff that an early version of the measure be changed so that it would apply only to the U.S. Senate and would sunset after the 2024 election, the emails show. The bill was changed accordingly.

However, lawmakers are now considering an amendment to the bill that would make it apply to future Senate races. Primary races for other seats would be unchanged in 2024, with voters in each qualifying political party continuing to select their own candidates for the general election.

The Montana House State Administration Committee planned to vote on the measure, and the amendment, on Monday.

The state Senate approved the 2024 primary change by a 27-23 vote last week. Seven Republicans joined all of the chamber’s Democrats in voting against the measure.

Both major parties in Montana have sought to use third parties to their advantage in past elections.

During one of last year’s U.S. House elections, a Democratic-linked group in Washington, D.C., sent mailers promoting Libertarian candidate John Lamb as the race’s “true conservative” in an effort to peel away conservative votes.

Liberal-backed groups used similar tactics during Montana’s 2012 and 2018 U.S. Senate races.

In the 2020 race, the Republican Party bankrolled a $100,000 signature-gathering effort to put the Montana Green Party on the ballot. The state Supreme Court removed the Green Party after hundreds of people sought to withdraw their signatures upon learning the GOP was behind the effort.

No one has claimed responsibility for a 2018 signature-gathering effort to get the Green Party on the ballot. That effort was overturned when a judge invalidated enough signatures so the party didn’t qualify.

“Some major parties probably want to continue doing this, including my own,” Hertz said Friday. “Let’s get away from this, what the two major parties are doing in Montana.”

Tester is considered highly vulnerable in 2024. Montana voted decisively for President Donald Trump in 2020 and Republicans last year claimed the state’s newly created U.S. House seat, with a win by former Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Zinke and fellow Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale are considered potential challengers to Tester next year.

But the Democrat has proven a formidable campaigner and prodigious fundraiser. His campaign this week reported raising $5 million in the latest quarter.

National News

Work continues on the roof of Gaido's restaurant in preparation for opening for diners for the firs...

Associated Press

In beachy Galveston, locals buckle down without power after Beryl’s blow during peak tourist season

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) — Vacuums sucked the water out of the seaside inn run by Nick Gaido’s family in Galveston since 1911 as power was still spotty nearly one week after a resurgent Hurricane Beryl swept into Texas. Blue tarp covered much of the torn off roof. Gaido scheduled cleanup shifts for the hotel and […]

6 hours ago

FILE - Balloons are hoisted to the ceiling in the Forum ahead of the 2024 Republican National Conve...

Associated Press

When does a presumptive nominee become a nominee? Here’s how Donald Trump will make it official

WASHINGTON (AP) — Monday 12:01 AM Nearly 2,500 delegates are gathering in Milwaukee this week for a roll call vote to select a the Republican presidential nominee, formally ending the presidential primary. It will be a moment lacking in suspense: Former President Donald Trump has already been the presumptive nominee for months, having clinched a […]

7 hours ago

Members of the Coalition to March on the RNC speak during a news conference ahead of the 2024 Repub...

Associated Press

GOP convention protests are on despite shooting at Trump rally

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Activists gathering in Milwaukee for the start of the Republican National Convention say the assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump won’t affect their long-standing plans to demonstrate outside the convention site this week. A diverse range of organizations and activists is expected outside the downtown Fiserv Forum. The largest expected demonstration […]

7 hours ago

FILE - Actor Clint Eastwood speaks to an empty chair while addressing delegates during the Republic...

Associated Press

Floor fights, boos and a too-long kiss. How the dramatic and the bizarre define convention history

WASHINGTON (AP) — In 1948, the Republican and Democratic parties did something unthinkable in today’s climate of ferocious political animosity: They not only held their national conventions in the same city, but shared some of the props. Both gathered in Philadelphia, largely because its Municipal Auditorium had already been fitted with the wiring needed for […]

7 hours ago

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, ...

Associated Press

The RNC’s first day will still focus on the economy. Here’s what to know about Trump’s plans

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump goes into the Republican National Convention with bold promises about the U.S. economy, but he has sketched out notably few details about how his plans would actually work. The convention’s first day is still expected to focus on the economy even after Saturday’s shooting at a Trump rally in Pennsylvania […]

7 hours ago

FILE - Wayne LaPierre arrives at court, Jan. 24, 2024, in New York. The second phase of the civil t...

Associated Press

Second phase of NRA civil trial over nonprofit’s spending set to open in NYC

NEW YORK (AP) — The second phase of the civil trial against the National Rifle Association and its top executives is set to begin Monday in Manhattan, with New York Attorney General Letitia James seeking an independent monitor to oversee the powerful gun rights group. The Democrat also is seeking to ban Wayne LaPierre, the […]

7 hours ago

Montana GOP seeks to bar 3rd parties from key US Senate race