KALISPELL – While five Flathead County incumbents will run unopposed this year – including Sheriff Chuck Curry and County Attorney Ed Corrigan – voters will find plenty of choices in legislative and other races in the June 3 primary and Nov. 4 general election.
The deadline for filing for office was earlier this week.
One of the most interesting races will come in the Republican primary for a state Senate seat.
The incumbent in Senate District 4, Republican Jon Sonju, is not seeking re-election. Sonju was Rick Hill’s running mate in 2012 when the pair ran for governor and lieutenant governor. Last fall, Sonju abandoned plans to run for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Steve Daines, who is running for the U.S. Senate.
Seeking to replace Sonju are Montana Speaker of the House Mark Blasdel of Kalispell and Kalispell Mayor Tammi Fisher. Both are Republicans.
The winner June 3 will square off against Democrat Elizabeth Cummings of Kalispell.
Just as interesting, a primary race in SD 5 was avoided when state Rep. Scott Reichner, R-Bigfork, reversed his decision to seek a spot in the upper chamber and withdrew.
He would have faced former Senate President Bob Keenan, also of Bigfork, in the primary.
Keenan, who also served as Senate minority leader, has been out of the Legislature for eight years. He unsuccessfully challenged then-U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns for the Republican nomination in 2006, and was the running mate of gubernatorial candidate Corey Stapleton in 2012. Stapleton lost the nomination to Hill, who lost the governor’s race to Steve Bullock.
Keenan will face Democrat Daniel S. King of Bigfork in November. Incumbent Verdell Jackson cannot run again because of term limits.
One of the most crowded fields in Flathead County comes in the race to replace Clerk and Recorder Paula Robinson, who did not file for re-election.
Four Republicans, and no Democrats, are running, meaning the June 3 primary will likely decide the race. The candidates, all from Kalispell, are Debbie Rhode Pierson, Corey L. Pilsch, Rebekah Eslick Savelle and Char Terry Sherman.
There are primary races for both the Democratic and Republican nominations for the county commission seat open this year. Cal Scott of Columbia Falls, who was appointed to fill out Jim Dupont’s term when Dupont died in 2012, faces a challenge in the GOP primary from Phil Mitchell of Kalispell.
Two people also seek the Democratic nomination in the race: John H. “Jack” Garlitz of Whitefish and Stacey L. Schnebel of Coram.
No Democrat, or other Republicans, filed for sheriff, county attorney or county treasurer. One Republican who filed for county superintendent of schools – incumbent Marcia Sheffels – also withdrew.
That means Treasurer Adele Krantz and superintendent candidate Jack Eggensperger, also Republicans, join Curry and Corrigan as running unopposed.
Also unopposed are Flathead County’s two justices of the peace, Dan Wilson and Mark Sullivan.
There will be general election races in every legislative district that is in or part of Flathead County, and primary races in a majority.
Here’s how the county’s several state House races shape up:
• HD 3: It will be a three-way race in November between Libertarian candidate Chris Colvin of Columbia Falls, Democrat Zac Perry of Hungry Horse and Republican incumbent Jerry O’Neil of Columbia Falls.
• HD 4: Incumbent Republican Keith Regier will face Democratic challenger Melanie J. Knadler in November. Both are from Kalispell.
• HD 5: Republicans Doug Adams and John Michael Myers, both of Whitefish, meet in the primary. The winner takes on Democratic incumbent Ed Lieser of Whitefish.
• HD 6: Rep. Carl Glimm, R-Kila, will go up against Democrat David Fischlowitz of Whitefish in November.
• HD 7: There are June 3 primary races on both sides of the ballot. The Democrats are Roxanna Brothers, Catherine Henderson and Alex Schaeffer. The Republicans are Frank Garner and Ronalee Skees. All are from Kalispell.
• HD 8: Incumbent Steve Lavin, R-Kalispell, will face Democratic challenger Lynn R. Stanley of Kalispell in November.
• HD 9: Democrat Diane Frances Taylor of Columbia Falls will challenge incumbent Randy Brodehl, R-Kalispell, in November.
• HD 10: Republican Mark R. Noland of Kalispell will take on Democrat Ruby M. Dynneson of Kalispell in the general election. A second Republican, Chris Petersen, withdrew from the race.
• HD 11: Again, two candidates – Mike Hebert of Somers and Albert Olszewski of Kalispell – seek the Republican nomination. Democrat Kim Fleming of Lakeside will advance to the general election unopposed.
• HD 13: Both primaries have races. Weylin Achatz and Gerald Joseph Cuvillier, both of Trout Creek, filed as Democrats. The Republican candidates are Bob Brown and Katy Walton, both of Thompson Falls. Outgoing state Rep. Pat Ingraham, R-Thompson Falls, cannot run again because of term limits.
Monica Eisenzimer, the recording manager for the Flathead County Election Department, noted that legislative districts have been redrawn and sometimes renumbered this year. That means incumbents such as Regier and Lieser are running in districts that have different numbers than the ones they currently represent.