HELENA - Another 67 candidates for the Montana Legislature filed Monday to beat the deadline to run for office this year, including Libertarians, Independents, a Green Party candidate and even a Republican or two in Butte - but a few prominent names were noticeably absent.
In all, a record 337 people filed to run this year for the 2011 Legislature, with a big rush on the final day.
Officials from the two major parties declared their recruiting a smashing success, and said they had fielded good candidates in the key swing districts that will decide majority control of the Legislature.
"We've had a great recruiting season and we have a tremendous group of candidates that are committed to helping get government out of the way, so we can put Montana back to work," said Sen. Jeff Essmann, a Billings Republican who chairs the party's Legislative Campaign Committee.
Democratic Party Chairman Jim Elliott said the party has "the right folks in the right races where we can win."
Yet the day was notable for some of those candidates who either didn't file or withdrew.
Two incumbent lawmakers decided Monday to withdraw as candidates, after having earlier paid their $15 filing fee: Rep. Ed Butcher, an outspoken Republican from Winifred, who withdrew in House District 29, and Rep. Mike Jopek, a Whitefish Democrat who sponsored a major property-tax-revision bill last year, who withdrew in HD4.
Veteran Rep. Bill Glaser, R-Huntley, who's been in the Legislature 17 of the last 25 years, also did not file to run for re-election in HD44, and Rep. Russell Bean, R-Augusta, also withdrew in HD17.
Republicans currently hold a 27-23 edge in the state Senate, and the House is tied 50-50 between the two parties.
While plenty of Democrats and Republicans filed in legislative races on Monday, other parties got into the act as well.
Five Libertarians filed as candidates, mostly in western Montana; the Constitution Party fielded another candidate; an Independent filed in a Flathead Valley House district; and Cheryl Wolfe of Polson became the only Green Party candidate on the entire ballot, filing to run in HD11.
Monday also saw two Republicans filing to run in the Democratic bastion of Butte, where Democrats traditionally run unopposed - or occasionally face a primary battle.
Butte Republican Rachel Roberts filed to run in HD73 against Democratic Rep. Pat Noonan, while Republican Max Yates of Butte is taking on Democrat Bob Brock in the open HD74.
Spokesmen for the two major parties also sounded familiar campaign themes on Monday.
Elliott said Democrats will emphasize how they've made Montana one of the few states in the nation without a huge budget deficit, and focus on policies that "create good-paying jobs and make Montana a leader in the future of renewable energy."
He also said the "extreme right is waging a war within the Republican Party in Montana," noting that some Republican incumbents are facing primary challenges from the right. The GOP has several races with crowded primaries, with some with as many as four candidates.
Essmann said Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility, and that they are the ones committed to reducing government.
"The voters will have a very clear contrast of our philosophies, and I'm confident that when given the choice, the people of Montana will choose fiscal sanity and send a Republican majority to Helena," he said.
Missoulian State Bureau reporter Mike Dennison can be reached at 1-800-525-4920 or at mike.dennison @lee.net.