Who’s on the Ballot in Upcoming Legislative Primaries?

Gun Rights

Montana residents on June 4 will cast their votes in party primaries for local, state and federal office. Ballots include competitive primaries for U.S. House and Senate; Montana governor, superintendent of public instruction, Supreme Court clerk and state auditor; and numerous state House and Senate seats. 

Flathead County will see seven party primaries for state Legislature: one Republican state Senate primary, five Republican state House primaries and one Democratic state House primary. Voters in Kila, Somers, Lakeside, Libby, Marion, West Glacier, Olney, Polebridge, Essex, Kalispell, Evergreen, Creston and parts of Whitefish can expect to see competitive legislative primaries on their ballots. Primary winners will head to the general election, which will take place on Nov. 5.

Ahead of the election, the Beacon looked into candidates’ backgrounds, policy positions and goals for the Legislature. 

Check your voter registration herefind out what legislative district you live in here, and read our complete guide to local legislative candidates here

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Senate District 5

Montana House Speaker Matt Regier faces security company president Marquis Laude

Speaker of the Montana House Matt Regier will face off against security company president Marquis Laude in the Republican primary for a state Senate district encompassing parts of western Flathead County. Regier is making his first run for state Senate after four terms in the House, where he defined himself as a leading conservative voice and a staunch, anti-abortion lawmaker. Laude is embarking on his inaugural run for office after a long career in the U.S. Army, the private security industry and the volunteer arm of the Flathead County Sheriff’s Department.

Senate District 5 encompasses western Flathead County, including Batavia, Kila, parts of northwest Kalispell, Somers, Lakeside and the areas around Blacktail Mountain and Smith Lake. The race between Regier and Laude has shaped up to be one of the most expensive in Flathead County, with Laude spending nearly $69,000 in his efforts to defeat Regier. Regier has spent $13,011.

Regier describes himself as a fighter for conservative values and has criticized the “liberal media” and “the radical Left.” He told the Beacon he is running for Senate to “represent conservative values” and continue his proven track record of supporting “pro-family” policy and “small, efficient government.” If elected to the Senate, he plans to eliminate income tax on Social Security and return the state’s 4% Lodging Facility Use Tax to the counties of origin, instead of its current allocation into the General Fund and other statewide accounts.  

Laude believes his skills as a business owner and background in public safety will position him well to serve in the Legislature. He said voters are frustrated by rising property taxes, increased immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border and growth in the Flathead Valley. While, according to Laude, the state offers valuable social programs, it has been beset by “wasteful spending,” such as the $1.8 million renovation of the capitol building in Helena. If elected, he hopes to reconfigure Montana tax code to alleviate the burden on primary homeowners.

Read more here and see a map of Senate District 5 here.

House District 2

Marion resident and Navy veteran Tom Millett faces longtime Libby resident and businessman Tom Jenkins

Tom Jenkins and Tom Millett will face off in a Republican primary to represent Libby, Marion and rural parts of Flathead and Lincoln counties in the Montana House.

Millett is a U.S. Navy veteran. In the Navy, he commissioned and served on two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and participated in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Millett completed electricians’ school and graduated from the Naval Nuclear Power Program. After his service, he worked in the civilian nuclear and fossil power generation industry, as well as the telecommunications industry. 

Jenkins has lived in Libby since 1962, where he raised his six daughters, served in the Montana National Guard and owned an automobile dealership. He is a graduate of Libby High School and the University of Montana.

Millett describes himself as a “fiscal conservative” who believes in “eliminating unnecessary, duplicative, and excessive laws and regulations.” The candidate plans to support policies that encourage “responsible natural resource development” and economic growth. Millett says he will prioritize “protecting our way of life,” lowering property taxes and increasing access to public lands.

Concerns about election integrity motivated Jenkins to run. He serves as an election judge in Lincoln County, where he said he has participated in the hand count of ballots. Jenkins describes himself as a “conservative Republican” who supports “the right to bear arms and freedom of speech” and is concerned with veterans’ issues. He believes natural areas in Lincoln County can provide unlimited recreational opportunities, as well as “great jobs and a steady tax base” through the mining and timber industries. On the issue of property taxes, he believes in creating a more equitable tax code that does not burden primary homeowners. Jenkins told the Beacon, “I am a longtime Libby resident and a Libby Logger, and I want to make sure Libby is well represented.” 

The federal government in June 2023 obtained tax liens and judgment against Millett’s property after he refused to pay any federal income taxes between 2004 and 2017. According to court documents, Millett did not pay his taxes because he stated “he is exempt from federal taxation, as only people who work in Washington, D.C. earn taxable ‘income.’” He has lived in Marion with his wife for 12 years.

See a map of House District 2 here.

House District 3

Independent filmmaker Guthrie Quist and former educator Debo Powers face off in competitive House district

Democratic voters in northern Flathead County will choose between Guthrie Quist and Debo Powers in the Democratic primary for House District 3. The newly drawn district encompasses parts of Whitefish and northern Columbia Falls, as well as Essex, West Glacier, Olney and Polebridge, and pundits say it may be favorable towards Democrats in the general election.

Quist is an independent filmmaker who gained political notoriety during his father’s 2017 campaign for U.S. House. Born and raised in the Flathead Valley, he cut his teeth in politics canvassing former President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign in Washington State. Quist currently runs a film production company, Enigmatic Features, and is a real estate agent with Quist Montana Properties.

Powers is a retired schoolteacher and environmentalist who lives in the rural North Fork area. As a resident of the North Fork, Powers has worked with a number of conservation and environmental organizations, including the North Fork Preservation Association and Wild Montana. Powers participated as a stakeholder in the Whitefish Range Partnership, serves on the Flathead National Forest Resource Advisory Committee, is the past president of the North Fork Landowners Association and was a volunteer wilderness patrol in Glacier National Park.

The candidate in 2019 was appointed to serve in the Montana Legislature following the resignation of three-term Democratic state Rep. Zac Perry, who vacated his seat to attend graduate school. Powers did not serve during an active legislative session in Helena and did not sit on any legislative interim committees. She did, however, write a newsletter to constituents and help residents of her district connect with statewide resources, she said.

Both candidates have run for office –– and lost –– in more conservative legislative districts. 

Quist and Powers would both like to see the Legislature make meaningful progress on affordable housing and teacher pay. Powers said access to public lands and a clean environment are her main passions, living in such close proximity to Glacier National Park and Montana’s wild lands. Quist said he would like to address road safety, given Montana’s moniker as the worst state for drunk driving incidents in 2024. 

Read more here and see a map of House District 3 here.

House District 7

Rep. Courtenay Sprunger faces challenge from former school board candidate Shaun Pandina

Republican freshman state Rep. Courtenay Sprunger is facing a challenge from Shaun Pandina, an ultra-conservative small business owner and former school board candidate who has criticized Sprunger for her record in the Legislature.

Sprunger was born and raised in Kalispell and is a graduate of Flathead High School and Vanguard University of Southern California. She is the founder and CEO of Kalispell-based firm Big Sky Public Relations.

Sprunger rose to prominence in the state House in 2023 as a moderate, policy-oriented Republican, garnering the support of Gov. Greg Gianforte and a wide coalition of Democrats and Republicans. Sprunger carried eight successful bills through the Legislature, including the establishment of an adoption tax credit; the expansion of advanced opportunity funding for public schools; and the creation of a fund to match federal grant dollars for statewide infrastructure projects. She plans to “advocate for a smaller government focused on infrastructure, education, housing and public safety.” Sprunger supports cutting red tape to spur the private development of affordable housing, improving trades education and setting a budget cap on local governments to rein in property tax growth. She said she will “work with whomever I need to work with to get solutions done for this community.”

The lawmaker has spent over $52,000 in her reelection campaign and has received the endorsements of Gianforte, U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke and the National Rifle Association.

Pandina was raised in the Flathead Valley and attended Columbia Falls High School before going to college to receive a degree in engineering. He was the former owner of Montana Action Parks Paintball. Pandina in 2021 ran unsuccessfully for the Kalispell Public Schools Board of Trustees, joining a slate of parents whose school board campaigns originated from opposition to mask mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic. He ran, and lost, for school board again in 2023, campaigning on a platform of streamlining the school district’s budget and implementing ethical policies regarding technology in schools.

The candidate is opposed to Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act. He said he will prioritize lowering property taxes and will oppose government-funded affordable housing. He is also in favor of lowering the corporate tax rate for businesses in Montana.  

Pandina in March was endorsed by the Flathead County Republican Central Committee. The committee has rebuked Sprunger for her record of working with Democrats. Sprunger declined to participate in the committee’s endorsement process.

See a map of House District 7 here.

House District 8

In Evergreen, conservative challenger Lukas Schubert aims to oust Rep. Tony Brockman

Republican first-term Rep. Tony Brockman is facing a challenge from 18-year-old Gen Z conservative Lukas Schubert.

Born and raised in Evergreen, Brockman graduated from the Evergreen School District and Flathead High School before earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Montana. He served as a page in the Montana Legislature during the 2005 legislative session, an intern in 2007 and 2009, and a staffer in 2011. After college, Brockman returned to the Flathead, where he served on the boards of the Evergreen Rural Fire District, Flathead County Sheriff’s Citizens’ Advisory Board, Flathead Food Bank and Flathead Area Young Professionals. He is the owner of Lone Pine Media, a Kalispell-based digital content development agency.

Schubert is a 2023 graduate of Glacier High School and a Flathead Valley Community College student. He serves on the Flathead County Transportation Advisory Committee and is the secretary of the Flathead County Republican Central Committee.

Brockman during the 2023 Legislature carried 16 bills that were signed into law, including legislation that modernized and revised alcohol laws, eliminated a statewide advisory council on concealed weapon permits and amended laws related to state boards and appointed officials. He helped to secure $1 million in a statewide budget bill to complete the construction of sidewalks along U.S. Highway 2 in Evergreen — though an individual funding bill for the project brought by Brockman did not pass. 

The lawmaker has said he will prioritize funding for law enforcement and first responders, investments in workforce training programs, tax reduction and infrastructure projects if reelected. 

Schubert told the Beacon he is running for Legislature to be a “genuine conservative voice” and because Montana Republicans are “tired of losing.” He plans to consider “Christian and Biblical values” while voting in Helena and fight against what he describes as “leftist indoctrination” in Montana’s public schools. He believes in curbing the power of the judiciary and allowing judges to run with party labels. Judicial races in Montana are currently non-partisan. Schubert has questioned the integrity of electronic voting machines and said he supports hand counting votes in all elections. 

Brockman received the endorsement of Gov. Greg Gianforte and the National Rifle Association. 

Schubert was endorsed by the Flathead County Republican Central Committee. Brockman declined to participate in the committee’s endorsement process. 

Read more here and see a map of House District 8 here.

House District 9

Flathead High School math teacher Lee Huestis and retired law enforcement officer Steve Kelly compete in Republican primary in western Flathead County 

Two Republicans are facing off in the primary election for a House district encompassing Somers, Lakeside and Kila. 

Flathead High School math teacher Lee Huestis has lived in Kalispell for two decades with his wife and two children. He was born and raised in Havre where he worked on his family’s farm before moving to Bozeman for school. Huestis told the Beacon he has been involved in Montana Republican politics for decades, including in Kalispell, Havre, Billings and Bozeman. According to his campaign website, Huestis supports controlling public spending, developing and strengthening education, upholding the Second Amendment and protecting both “medical privacy” and “the sanctity of all human life.” The candidate in 2022 ran unsuccessfully in the Republican primary for Senate District 4 against Sen. John Fuller. In his 2022 race, Huestis received endorsements from former Kalispell Public Schools Superintendent Mark Flatau and former Montana Secretary of State and State Senate President Bob Brown.

Kelly is a retired law enforcement officer who spent 30 years working in public safety in Nevada. He served in the Washoe County Sherriff’s Office for 25 years before retiring as a captain in 2011. Kelly managed the county’s jail and worked in the sheriff’s office patrol, detention, district court, search and rescue and administration departments. Following his retirement from the sheriff’s office, Kelly was a content development manager for a public safety manuals company. Kelly is a member of the Flathead County Republican Central Committee, an associate member of the Flathead County Republican Women and a member of the Glacier Country Pachyderm. Kelly’s campaign priorities include ensuring that Flathead Lake is “managed in a manner that benefits all, not just one group”; that Montana addresses illegal immigration; that property taxes are stabilized; and that teachers “get back to teaching and not be distracted with promoting social issues or enabling students to behave contrary to parents’ wishes.”

Kelly in March was endorsed by the Flathead County Republican Central Committee. Huestis declined to participate in the endorsement process, given that members of the endorsement committee made donations to candidates prior to their endorsements, calling the process “epically irresponsible.” 

See a map of House District 9 here.

House District 11

Former Bigfork Schools transportation director faces off against retired Army colonel with Montana roots 

Republican voters in eastern Flathead County will choose between retired Army colonel Ed Byrne and the former transportation director of the Bigfork School District Rob Tracy. 

First-time political candidate Byrne is a retired Army colonel with roots in northwest Montana. Tracy, a volunteer firefighter and former Bigfork School District transportation director, is making his second run for office after an unsuccessful state Senate contest in 2022.

Byrne, 60, was born in Anchorage, Alaska in 1964 before his family moved to Missoula. He spent family vacations traveling to the Flathead Valley to tend to his family’s farm. Byrne obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Montana, where he participated in ROTC and served in the Montana National Guard. He spent three decades in the Army, where he rose in the ranks to colonel and worked in strategy, both domestically and through tours in the Balkans, Iraq and Haiti. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Central Michigan University and a master’s of military strategic studies from the Army War College.

Following his retirement from the Army, Byrne moved back to Montana, settling on his family farm in Creston. He has served as the commander of the Bigfork VFW, president of the Northwest Montana Westerners history group, strategy committee chair for the FCRCC and treasurer of the Glacier Country Pachyderm.

Tracy, 72, was born in Marblehead, Mass. He earned a degree in marketing from Boston College in 1975, going on to work with utility companies and eventually becoming an independent manufacturers representative. While working in Minnesota, he met his wife, who was raised in Great Falls. The couple settled in the Flathead two decades ago, where they raised their family.

In the Flathead, Tracy got involved with the Bigfork Volunteer Fire Department, where he became a volunteer firefighter and assisted the organization in securing grant funding. He also became a bus driver for the Bigfork School District, which turned into 12 years working for the district, during six of which he served as transportation director. Tracy serves as a mentor for both at-risk Bigfork students and incarcerated individuals at the Montana State Prison.

Byrne hopes to focus on tax policy and appropriations in Helena, lowering property taxes and passing relief for seniors and farmers. He wants to end Montana’s policy of taxing seniors on Social Security and rectify what he describes as the “ill-gotten” water compact between Montana and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT). He also hopes to introduce legislation to protect property owners against squatters.

If elected, Tracy said he hopes to implement tax rebate programs, ensure public schools receive adequate funding and increase teacher pay. While he is focused on “saving tax dollars and reducing waste, fraud and abuse,” he is favorable towards Medicaid and Medicaid expansion. He believes out-of-staters with second homes should pay increased property taxes to alleviate the burden on primary homeowners. 

Tracy proudly describes himself as a “moderate” and feels that Montana politics have alienated voters. He sees himself as a “partner with the people” and describes his political philosophy as, “You start with the constituents, next comes your conscience, and last comes the caucus.” Tracy said he is eager for bipartisan cooperation and admires politicians who “are willing and genuinely trying to work across the aisle.”

Byrne, who is involved in leadership in the Flathead County Republican Central Committee, which endorsed him earlier this spring, said that Tracy “has not been part of the Republican Party.” Byrne said he will support the Republican Party platform and its candidates, no matter who they are.

Read more here and see a map of House District 11 here.

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