RONAN - When House District 12 candidate Rick Jore left his home to vote Tuesday, only one thing bothered him.

He lives in House District 15, and couldn't vote for himself.

"I hope I don't lose by one vote," said Jore, who lives three miles outside of the district he will represent in the Legislature next session. "I think my wife might vote for me, too, if she could."

In the 2004 election, Jore won, then tied for, then was appointed by the governor to, then lost a seat in the Montana House of Representatives, when a tight-as-a-drum, three-way race in House District 12 eventually wound up before the state Supreme Court.

But Tuesday, in a two-way race with no Republican candidate to split the vote, Jore bested Rep. Jeanne Windham, D-Polson, who eventually had been declared the winner in the hotly contested 2004 contest. This time Jore had 2,210 votes to Windham's 1,725.

The 56 percent to 44 percent margin is "much more comfortable," said Jore, who served as a Republican legislator from 1995-2000, and won a seat for the first time in four tries as a member of the Constitution Party.

Jore's election essentially breaks a 50-50 deadlock in the House and gives control back to Republicans. As of Wednesday, Republicans had won 50 seats to the Democrats' 49, with Jore the wild card.

Asked if he would caucus with the GOP majority, Jore said, "Quite frankly, the answer is yes. I'll certainly be in close enough contact with the Republicans that, if I don't literally caucus with them, I'll keep up with their strategy and plans."

But he said he would always advocate for government restrained by constitutional boundaries, and would measure all proposed legislation in its constitutional context.

"I guess the way to say it is there's a constitutional rulebook, and I will advocate to get back to that rulebook," Jore said.

He said he believes government has strayed far from what the constitution intended, and one of the results is that it is spending more money than it should.

After leaving the Republican Party for the Constitution Party in 2000, Jore lost House elections to Rep. Joey Jayne, D-Arlee, in 2000 and 2002. He then filed in House District 12 in 2004, an election that recounts showed was a tie between Windham and Jore.

While former Gov. Judy Martz then appointed Jore to the seat, a lawsuit filed by a Big Arm voter questioned whether seven ballots where voters appeared to vote for both Jore and Republican candidate Jack Cross should have been counted for Jore, as county officials and a lower-court judge had ruled.

The Supreme Court eventually said they shouldn't have.

This year, there was no doubt.

"I am really pleased that, on one hand, folks were willing to put their confidence in me, and also that they didn't succumb to a lot of negative stuff in the last week of the campaign," Jore said.

The Windham campaign ran ads pointing out Jore's stands on issues such as the economy, health care and education. Jore countered with ads saying, "I will never seek to represent the views or positions of other candidates, or place labels on them. It is too easy to distort or misrepresent other people."

Windham's campaign focused on better educational opportunities for children and college students, better access to affordable health care, job and economic growth and lower taxes.

Jore ran on a platform of private property and gun rights, less government, lower taxes, state sovereignty and constitutional fidelity. A pro-life candidate, he said during the campaign he intends to introduce legislation - similar to that passed in South Dakota (and overturned by voters there Tuesday) - that would ban virtually all abortions.

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