HELENA – Some candidates for Montana’s open U.S. House seat are racking up endorsements from various national and state groups as well as political leaders, while others haven’t garnered any endorsements.

In the five-way Republican primary, state Sen. Matt Rosendale, R-Glendive, has collected the most endorsements.

On the Democratic side, John Lewis of Helena leads the two-way field with many endorsements.

The question is whether these endorsements matter much in the June 3 Republican and Democratic primaries.

Political scientists disagree.

“I don’t think they make much difference,” said Craig Wilson, a political science professor at Montana State University Billings. “With so many candidates, endorsements don’t matter all that much.”

Wilson called endorsements “just window dressing.” He said the Republican House primary is really “a battle of ideologies,” not endorsements.

David Parker, who teaches political science at Montana State University, disagrees.

“Endorsements help voters in low-information environments like primary elections, so yes, they can and do matter,” he said. “And they matter even more in a crowded primary because it is harder for voters to make choices in that environment. Endorsements will matter much less in the general election.”

Here’s a listing of some of the key endorsements earned by the House candidates in the Republican primary:

Rosendale. He has endorsements from former U.S. Rep. Ron Marlenee and former Gov. Stan Stephens. He also has the backing of 51 current and former Republican state legislators.

National groups that have endorsed Rosendale are the National Association of Gun Rights, Concerned Women for America and Tea Party Express.

Former state Sen. Ryan Zinke of Whitefish. Former U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns has backed Zinke. He also received two national endorsements, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Combat Veterans for Congress.

State Sen. Elsie Arntzen, of Billings. Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s political action committee, ShePAC, has endorsed Arntzen. Former U.S. Rep. Rick Hill also backed her.

Former state Sen. Corey Stapleton of Billings. Former Gov. Judy Martz endorsed Stapleton.

“I haven’t really tried to get any,” Stapleton said.

Drew Turiano of Helena. He has no endorsements, Turiano said, adding: “I don’t go out searching for endorsements.”


Here’s a look at the Democrats:

Lewis. He has won endorsements from U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, Gov. Steve Bullock and former U.S. Rep. Pat Williams of Missoula.

Among the groups endorsing Lewis are: Planned Parenthood, MEA-MFT, AFL-CIO, International Association of Fire Fighters, Montana Public Employees Association, Montana Democratic Party, Montana Conservation Voters, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Service Employees International Union and numerous other national labor unions.

Former Public Service Commissioner John Driscoll of Helena. He said he doesn’t have any endorsements.

“I’ve never thought to ask for people’s endorsements in the primary,” Driscoll said. “I hate to put people on the spot. I’d like their votes.”

If he wins the primary, Driscoll said he would ask different organizations if they would consider endorsing him in the general election.

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

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