Perennial Libertarian Party candidate Michael C. Fellows, 59, of Missoula, was killed in a two-vehicle crash near Potomac on Monday night.
"We believe he was coming back from a political event," Missoula County Undersheriff Jason Johnson said Tuesday.
Fellows, a congressional candidate, participated in a Monday night forum hosted by the Seeley Lake Community Council.
Fellows has run for office every year since 1996, when he ran for Montana House. He ran six times for the U.S. House between 1998 and 2010; for Secretary of State in 2000, and for the Montana Supreme Court in 2012. He was unsuccessful every time.
Fellows, who chaired the Montana Libertarian party and was on the board of the Libertarian National Committee, wrote on his website that "government is simply force with a little mob rule thrown in."
"As the longest-serving active state chair of the Libertarian Party, he worked tirelessly to advocate the party's message for more than two decades, often on his own dime, on his own time," said a statement released by the Montana Libertarian Party. "... The word dedication doesn't even begin to describe Fellows’ contribution to and passion for spreading the message of liberty in Montana."
Because of Fellows' work, the Libertarian Party was on the Montana ballot for more than 20 years, "something few third-party state affiliates have been able to accomplish," said the party's statement.
The Montana Highway Patrol reports that the wreck occurred near mile marker 17.
Fellows was driving a Lexus westbound on Montana Highway 200, when he apparently crossed the center line into the path of an oncoming Subaru Forester driven by a 58-year-old woman from Potomac. The driver of the Subaru was injured and taken to St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula. Fellows was pronounced dead at the scene.
Veteran Montana journalist Chuck Johnson tweeted Tuesday that Fellows was the fourth political candidate to die on the state’s campaign trail since 1988.
A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Linda McCulloch’s office did not immediately confirm that tally.
Fellows' House race opponents, Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., and Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, a Democrat, offered their condolences in a joint statement Tuesday afternoon.
"My sincerest condolences to the Fellows family, his friends and followers. Mike was a true advocate for the Libertarian cause and a good man. He had incredible passion for his platform and he will be missed in Montana," Zinke said.
"I'm shocked and saddened to hear about the passing of Mike Fellows," said Juneau. "My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. Mike was a passionate advocate for his values, and I have always admired his courage and dedication to serving Montana. He will be missed."
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., extended his sympathies to the Fellows family, adding in a statement that "Montana will miss his contributions to our democracy and our way of life.”
His death was met with similar regret by Kay Rabil, who served with Fellows on the board of Missoula Community Access TV.
"Mike was a dedicated member of the MCAT board and he will be greatly missed,” Rabil said. “His passion for our community was evident in everything he did. He was our friend."
Gov. Steve Bullock and running mate Mike Cooney in a statement thanked Fellows for his service and lauded his commitment to the Libertarian cause.
McCulloch also offered her condolences. She said the Libertarian Party will have until 5 p.m. Monday to provide the name of a candidate to replace Fellows on the upcoming general election ballots.
Independent Record reporter James DeHaven contributed to this story.
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