Montana Republican delegates support closed primaries, runoff elections

2014-06-22T06:45:00Z 2014-09-03T12:35:44Z Montana Republican delegates support closed primaries, runoff electionsBy CHARLES S. JOHNSON Missoulian State Bureau

BILLINGS – Irked at what they believe is Democrats interfering in their primary elections, Montana Republican Party delegates on Saturday called for closing their primaries and allowing only registered Republicans to vote in them.

Delegates also voted to support a second measure calling for quick runoff elections in general elections between the two candidates with the most votes. Runoffs would take place if no candidate won the majority of the votes in the general election.

Neither resolution would take effect unless the Legislature passes laws to implement them or a court orders them. They simply reflect the viewpoints of a majority of the 207 delegates at the Republican convention.

The resolution for a closed Republican primary sparked a debate.

Matthew Monforton, a Bozeman attorney and House candidate, said 35 states have closed primaries.

“If we want to remain the party of (Abraham) Lincoln and (Ronald) Reagan and not the party of the teachers’ unions, we need to follow suit,” he said.

But state Rep. Jeff Welborn of Dillon opposed the call for closed Republican primaries.

“We have been here for two days. We have talked about unifying our party. This is a minority maker,” Welborn said.

Some delegates said they had received calls from Republicans opposing closed primaries and saying they would not register as Republicans.

Former state Rep. Bob Wagner of Harrison supported closing the primary.

“The Republican Party is being forced to have general elections in the primary,” he said. “The primary process is to bring your best candidate for the general election.”

Rep. Steve Fitzpatrick of Great Falls called closed primaries “a really bad idea.”

“No one won or lost elections because we had an open primary,” Fitzpatrick said.

Primaries are won by candidates knocking on doors, raising money and working hard, he said.

The delegates adopted the provision for quick runoff elections in general election.

Rep. Bill Harris, R-Winnett, said that neither Gov. Steve Bullock nor U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, both Democrats, received a majority of the votes cast in 2012. If there had been a runoff-election requirement, both Bullock and Tester would have faced voters another time – but only against their Republican opponents.


State Senate president Jeff Essmann of Billings wrote four election-related provisions, which also included endorsement of a November ballot measure to cut off voter registration at 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day, which is on Tuesday. Delegates endorsed this provision.

Since 2006, people have been able to register to vote up to 8 p.m. on Election Day and cast their votes. Essmann said passage of the ballot measure would allow election administrators to focus solely on administering fair and clean elections on Election Day and provide election results in a timely manner.

Convention delegates also supported another Essmann proposal, which called for changing how the commissioner of political practices operates.

He criticized the current setup, saying it allows the commissioner to be investigator, prosecutor, judge and jury on campaign and ethics complaints. Under Essmann’s plan, a new multi-member commission, independent of the executive branch, would serve as the judge and jury in these cases, while the commissioner would investigate and prosecute the cases.

Finally, the delegates – on a voice vote – unanimously supported a resolution by Sen. Jennifer Fielder, R-Thompson Falls, in support of turning over federally managed public lands to the states. There was no debate.

They rejected a resolution by Steve Dogiakos of Choteau in support of a constitutional amendment to eliminate the post of lieutenant governor.

Chuck Johnson is chief of the Lee Newspapers State Bureau in Helena. He can be reached by email at or by phone at (406) 447-4066 or (800) 525-4920.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(45) Comments

  1. LosandfoundT
    Report Abuse
    LosandfoundT - June 25, 2014 6:14 pm
    Tea-Party owned Republican/GOP conservative's buzz words = Tea-isms... [and what they mean]

    FISCALLY CONSERVATIVE = run the state into debt and spend your money, not mine!

    QUALITY EDUCATION = cut funding for schools and library's... ( but, we did raise interest rates on student loans! )

    LOW TAXES = for corporations... not for you!

    JOBS = low paying without benefits!

    OPEN GOVERNMENT = you don't need to know what's best for you!

    SCIENCE = we know better, BP has everything under control... . Drill-Baby-Drill..!

    ENVIRONMENT = who needs clean air and water if it cuts into profit... Spill-Baby-Spill..!

    HEALTH CARE = just die, you can be replaced... note: birth-control!

    VOTING = as long as you vote right! or... Vote as you are told...Woman!

    ACCOUNTABILITY = Shut-Down? Don't blame me... The Tea-Party didn't let me Vote at All..!

    CHOOSE RESPECT = men know more about a woman's body than you, just control your libido! Or... shut-up woman and make me a baby... and a sandwich!

    BIRTH-CONTROL = it's all the woman's fault when a man makes a woman pregnant... or, it's not a man's problem/concern! ( just remember that penile-implants, as well as Viagra, are to be paid for by health insurance..! ;- )

    ABORTION = we make you have the baby because men don't have to give birth... and men Don't have to be responsible for use of birth-control...

    Now... Where is that sandwitch..?
  2. Run - A- Mook
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    Run - A- Mook - June 23, 2014 9:00 pm
    make the search -- searched
  3. Run - A- Mook
    Report Abuse
    Run - A- Mook - June 23, 2014 8:56 pm
    1st to the Missoulian. What is Objective observer's connection to the Missoulain.
    If you say none. I will take your word for it. But with his ease of posting foolish
    and in a lot of cases outright lies. One most wonder.

    To O.o. your quote, "Says the guy who called John Walsh (D) a Koch Brothers candidate." You know and I know that there is not a word of truth in this comment.
    I challenge you, to prove that statement any way you can. Not the way you usually
    make a comment. With no back up for that statement. What you need to do is,
    come up with the article, date of my post and the time.

    I will give you a head start. I search the Missoulian "Did Run-A-Mook ever make
    the statement, "calling John Walsh (D) a Koch Brothers candidate." The answer
    from the Missoulian was, "Your search did not yield any results." Have fun and
    I wish you one h*ll of a lot of luck. For you are going to need it.
  4. BJackson
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    BJackson - June 23, 2014 6:30 pm
    Why not, you vote for liberal socialism?
  5. LosandfoundT
    Report Abuse
    LosandfoundT - June 23, 2014 12:12 pm
    Don't think for yourself…

    Vote... Tea-Party Extremists..!!!
  6. Objective observer
    Report Abuse
    Objective observer - June 23, 2014 12:07 pm
    Says the guy who called John Walsh (D) a Koch Brothers candidate.
  7. MTminded
    Report Abuse
    MTminded - June 23, 2014 11:52 am
    The board of directors analogy doesn't really work. A board of directors of a single corporation doesn't represent an entire industry like an elected official represents an entire district.
  8. Tracker
    Report Abuse
    Tracker - June 23, 2014 11:35 am
    Incorrect. Incumbent means whoever currently holds the office. It doesn't matter how they got there.
  9. BJackson
    Report Abuse
    BJackson - June 23, 2014 7:12 am
    Actually those appointed to a normally elected position to fill and empty seat, are considered the incumbent, so it is correct to say the incumbent treasure lost the job.
  10. GaryEG
    Report Abuse
    GaryEG - June 23, 2014 6:48 am
    I know a guy that has admitted to me that he doesn't pay any attention to the candidates or issues, he just votes straight Republican. People like him (voting straight Democrat is just as bad) Do this nation a dis-service when they vote. They care not about the nation only about their political party.
  11. BJG1
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    BJG1 - June 22, 2014 10:49 pm
    Then why was it okay a few years ago in Ravalli county for the Repuglicans to register as democrats and run for office as a Democrat? People should be able to vote any party they wish in the primaries regardless of party.
    We are so stuck on the party affiliation of candidates that we think it treason to vote for the best candidate and not the party. Look what happened in Ravalli County last time....a clean sweep of the most inept candidates because they were R's and not D's. What a stupid, stupid way to pick our representatives. And now ALL Ravalli county residents are going to have to pay for the stupidity of those who chose by party alone.
  12. Run - A- Mook
    Report Abuse
    Run - A- Mook - June 22, 2014 8:44 pm
    Most of the comments here are by, people who know very
    about a lot of nothing. I would bet, that not one of them
    was in attendance and are just running off at the mouth.
  13. BJackson
    Report Abuse
    BJackson - June 22, 2014 8:11 pm
    " It's time the GOP and Dems each get their collective heads out of their a$$es and focus on what's best for the nation, not what's best for their party."

    Ya Gary, good luck with that, I have been saying that since the first election I voted in over 50 years ago and it has not changed yet.
  14. LosandfoundT
    Report Abuse
    LosandfoundT - June 22, 2014 6:49 pm
    Consider the fact that the Tea-Party owned GOP/Republican have harnessed the repayment of this Country's $17,000,000,000,000.00+ debt to the About-to-Become-Extinct-Middle-Class-American-Taxpayer...
  15. MTLiberty
    Report Abuse
    MTLiberty - June 22, 2014 6:33 pm
    The purpose of a Party Primary is for the Party to elect its candidates. General Motors does not allow Chrysler to vote for its board of directors.

    There are about 35% of registered voters that vote in a Primary. There are also about 35%+ of voters that consider themselves to be not a "member" of the "two party system". I suspect if the Democratic Party does not close its Primary, a good number of the "non two party system members" will vote on the Democrats ballot.

    I also suspect that there will be a lot of people that usually vote on the Republican Primary ballot (maybe sometimes a Libertarian or slightly right leaning person will do that) will simply refuse to register with party affiliation.

    In my opinion, the historical abysmal low turnout in the Primary will likely drop to an even lower level.
  16. brmoderate
    Report Abuse
    brmoderate - June 22, 2014 5:36 pm
    The treasurer was appointed, not elected. The same is true with the senator from the south end of tSC. he valley (one who is complaining loudest). He was appointed to the office when Bob Lake moved up to the P.
  17. GaryEG
    Report Abuse
    GaryEG - June 22, 2014 4:30 pm
    " just because they close a primary, does not close the general election." I never said it did. But if I have to swear loyalty to one party just so I can vote on their primary ticket I can't do that, because I don't agree with everything either party stands for or wants. It's time the GOP and Dems each get their collective heads out of their a$$es and focus on what's best for the nation, not what's best for their party.
  18. GaryEG
    Report Abuse
    GaryEG - June 22, 2014 4:23 pm
    If they want to take away my choice on the primary I won't vote for them in the general election. That goes for both parties. I choose whichever primary ballot has the most people I support. Two years ago I voted on the GOP primary, this year I voted on the Democrat primary. I disagree with only having two choices in the primary election, bit it's the only choices I am offered. If I don't support any candidate on whichever ballot I am voting I vote "none of the above."
  19. NoturAverageBear
    Report Abuse
    NoturAverageBear - June 22, 2014 4:06 pm
    Gary, you don't pass the "purity test", only true republicans can play in this game! They don't want to run the risk of someone voting for the best person for the job, they want to make sure that you only vote for the most conservative candidate -- AKA Koch Party Puppet ....

    Didn't the nazi and many communist parties have a purity test, some religulous zealots too, have purity test....there's a virginity purity test as well....

    It's quite the slippery slope the new republicans are taking a walk on!
  20. Objective observer
    Report Abuse
    Objective observer - June 22, 2014 3:42 pm
    Well said.
  21. NoturAverageBear
    Report Abuse
    NoturAverageBear - June 22, 2014 3:31 pm
    Surely the King will allow us to play in his royal forest?

    That's the plan, pal, privatize every thing! Surely the rich man can manage public lands better than the people, ain't it!
  22. Skinwalker
    Report Abuse
    Skinwalker - June 22, 2014 3:15 pm
    I look forward to hunting Elk with a spear.
  23. Gomez
    Report Abuse
    Gomez - June 22, 2014 1:25 pm
    One, I'm an Independent. Two. Mean? Nah. Just foolish.
  24. David1
    Report Abuse
    David1 - June 22, 2014 12:46 pm
    Oh, yes! Reduce government, reduce taxes (the rich really like this idea. BTW, where has cutting taxes got this country?), reduce health, education, and other social services. Oh, what a great day in the mornin'. Then see what kind of state and country you have. Someone already mentioned Third World status.

    Is that what you want? A few with all the money and power, and everyone else living and suffering in poverty? Is that what you want? Because sure as I write this, the money will flow, as it has been doing, even faster the very rich and powerful, to the expense of the masses who earn that money through their honest, hard working, labor!

    Get a clue, folks. You are simply dupes to the outmoded, and fairly ancient idea that individual enterprise is the only way for an economy, and those who have accumulated the most money (not necessarily earned it) is the only way to prosperity for all.

    That is simply nonsense. Time & again, economic history shows that it's the private sector that has driven this country into misery, suffering, depressions, and just recently, recession.

    All you who are so ardently for reduction in government, taxes, etc., wish this country were back in the 1890s, known as the Gilded Age. Think about that title. The only reason this country is great is because of public action in the early 20th Century, producing the elimination of child labor, providing sanitary and building codes, etc.

    And yes, the unions have done much to help produce the middle class we have now, which, btw, is eroding, due to people like you, people with an 1890s mindset. You're in love with a principle, a theory, not with reality.

    As long as the GOP wallows in this nonsense, that's as long as the GOP will never be a governing party, again. I see 2016 as a huge rejection of the principles the tea party and GOP promote.

    GOP proponents cry, "Take Our Country Back!" Back to what? Back to Iraq wars, reducing/eliminating programs that help our society have a better life? Back to the 1890s? You people are so out of touch where this county is and is going, it's a wonder any of your candidates get into office.

  25. libertarian
    Report Abuse
    libertarian - June 22, 2014 12:34 pm
    The Republicans are still talking about taking their taxpayer subsidy, even though they don't want you to vote in their primary. The Republicans can pay for their own primary or nominate by convention. The Independent Party in Oregon pays for their own primary, why can't the Republicans and Democrats. But then again Republicans like to spend almost as much as the Democrats.
  26. MTminded
    Report Abuse
    MTminded - June 22, 2014 12:26 pm
    "I vote for the best candidate, not along party lines."

    This is not necessarily true as primary elections require the voter to opt between two ballots: republican or democrat. If a voter wishes to vote for one particular candidate, say, listed on the republican ballot that voter cannot then vote for a democratic candidate running for a different office. Our voting power is limited by separate ballots.
  27. BJackson
    Report Abuse
    BJackson - June 22, 2014 12:09 pm
    Well Gary, that is the way it works in the majority of the states in the Union, now we could go to a convention or caucus system and take the voter out of the primaries completely, just because they close a primary, does not close the general election.
  28. Drummer
    Report Abuse
    Drummer - June 22, 2014 11:58 am
    There is no real leadership in the Republican Party, only a clique who pretends to speak for all the Conservatives. The Tea Party has tried to shine the light on the Truth about the GOP, but only gets disparaged and "lumped in" with these curmudgeons. Now, the Tea Party is even being disparaged by the Democrat/Progressive/Communists, as well. Apparently, the TRUTH HURTS BOTH PARTIES! There should be another Party added to the list of Political Parties in Montana and that is "INDEPENDENT." Further, there should be one combined ballot with all Candidates listed, so the VERY BEST of each party can be voted and elected to office. Many of us do not like to identify with the Republicans or the Democrats. Both parties have and continue to disenfranchise the residents of Montana. They are melding into ONE PARTY. Look at the facts, people! Look at the outcomes of the elections, and look at your local Central Committees. All buddies leading us towards Communism.
  29. GaryEG
    Report Abuse
    GaryEG - June 22, 2014 10:50 am
    I am not a democrat, nor am I a republican. I vote for the best candidate, not along party lines. If I think the Dem candidate is the better choice that is who I vote for. If I think the GOP candidate is the best choice I that is who I vote for. Now the GOP appears to not want my vote in the primaries solely based on the fact that I am not registered as a republican. If the Dems do the same thing I won't be able to vote in the primary at all. If I can't vote for someone in one election I sure as hell aint going to vote for them in the general election. That leaves me with only the liberals and independents to vote for. What a great idea to alienate any voter not registered to their party. That is an awesome way to get votes...not!
  30. trollolol
    Report Abuse
    trollolol - June 22, 2014 10:28 am
    I used to identify as a republican, until the tea party got hijacked by people who, to put it bluntly, would turn this country into a third world theocracy if given half the chance. As a woman, I refuse to vote for people who would severely restrict my reproductive rights and access to birth control and cancer screening on my lady parts. So, I'm an independent. I've never missed an opportunity to vote, ever. I even make it to school board elections. My voting history is a mix of parties, even though I've never met a politician I really wanted in that office (met plenty I didn't want)
    But here is my warning to the republican party: if you close the primary and create a litmus test for voting, I will never cast a vote for a republican again.
  31. WhiteHat
    Report Abuse
    WhiteHat - June 22, 2014 10:24 am
    "Wondering" made a very good point about getting a conservative governor. That is really the key in moving Montana forward in a positive way. The last two legislative sessions found the Republicans never able to over-ride one veto (even when they initiated the override branding iron). We should already be encouraging good, solid Republicans to run for Governor in 2016 and this person does not need to come from the legislature. Let's consider great possibilities from outside the legislature as well. That could be done as Montana is loaded with solid leaders. Let's talk it up!
  32. walter
    Report Abuse
    walter - June 22, 2014 10:11 am
    Here in Ravalli County, I am sure a lot of citizen and voters that would normally vote Democratic voted the Republican primary ballot. But they didn't do it to give Democrats an advantage but to fire the incumbent commissioners and treasurer, who were clearly incompetent and were putting politics ahead of running the business of the county. 2 of the 3 incumbent commissioners and the incumbent treasurer lost their jobs in the primary and will not be on the ballot in November. The citizens and voters of Ravalli County told their representatives that they were not happy with how they were running county business and fired them. The election process in this case worked for the people of Ravalli County.
  33. sew2
    Report Abuse
    sew2 - June 22, 2014 9:52 am
    I think you should be able to vote in both primaries. Then we could all massacre the election process and end up with the worst candidates in both parties, with one going to DC.
  34. Watching
    Report Abuse
    Watching - June 22, 2014 9:45 am
    They can't win the popular vote, so they gerrymander districts. Then they can't get their wing nuts through the primaries, so they want to gerrymander that too. It seems Republicans can only win through cheating since the voters don't really like them or their policies.
  35. wondering
    Report Abuse
    wondering - June 22, 2014 8:39 am
    We need a conservative Governor who will work with a true conservative legislature. These changes get Republicans closer to that goal.
  36. idiot state
    Report Abuse
    idiot state - June 22, 2014 7:57 am
    OF COURSE there should be closed primaries in Montana. What took them so long to come to this conclusion? Montana DEMOCRATS are busy active aggressive in that state, kinda like fire ants, and they'll stop at nothing to mess up the Republicans. Keep the big union democrats out of Republican elections.
  37. Faxnlogicovremotnlhystria
    Report Abuse
    Faxnlogicovremotnlhystria - June 22, 2014 6:56 am
    They've got the public land idea all wrong. If Montana could handle it I would be in support, but if this happens you'll see it sold off.
  38. moderate
    Report Abuse
    moderate - June 22, 2014 6:19 am
    The GOP is grasping at straws.Maybe if they tried to be a little more compassion they would have better luck against the Dems. We know that that will not happen.
  39. MiddleFinger
    Report Abuse
    MiddleFinger - June 22, 2014 2:24 am
    Speaking only about the GOP...

    Fitzpatrick said, "Primaries are won by candidates knocking on doors, raising money and working hard."

    The democrats win primaries through good ideas, innovative thinking, and common sense solutions.

    Send in the clowns!

  40. brmoderate
    Report Abuse
    brmoderate - June 21, 2014 11:59 pm
    Sounds like the Republicans don't trust us, that is we, the voters. So much for freedom in a red state
  41. montanamuralist
    Report Abuse
    montanamuralist - June 21, 2014 11:36 pm
    Perhaps if you get therapy you can overcome the conspiracy theory stuff that seems to plague your party. Right now that is chasing people away. Lincoln would never have asked for closed primaries. If you are determined to alienate people...fine with me. I never vote in your primaries anyway. Only helps the opposition and I am all for that!!!!
  42. LosandfoundT
    Report Abuse
    LosandfoundT - June 21, 2014 11:06 pm
    There are No Republicans… just Minions owned and operated by the Tea-Party Extremists..!!!
  43. BJackson
    Report Abuse
    BJackson - June 21, 2014 10:45 pm
    You democrats are amazing, 70% of the states have closed elections and you are thinking the republicans in Montana are being mean? Give it a break! Geeze.
  44. Davy Crockett
    Report Abuse
    Davy Crockett - June 21, 2014 10:35 pm
    Sure the left of center Republicans are opposed to closed primaries. Their little shell game with the Democrats would come to an end.
  45. Gomez
    Report Abuse
    Gomez - June 21, 2014 9:41 pm
    It's almost as if they're trying to make their tent as small as humanly possible. Good luck with this one guys! : ) You've gone from the clown car to the flea circus. : )
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