HELENA – Sen. Jesse Laslovich, D-Anaconda, considered one of Montana’s rising young political stars, resigned his legislative seat Wednesday.
He submitted his resignation to Secretary of State Linda McCulloch. By law, it becomes effective in 72 hours and triggers the lengthy process to replace him in Senate District 43, which covers all of Deer Lodge and Granite counties and part of Powell County.
Laslovich, 30, said he was resigning to accept a job as chief legal counsel for state Auditor Monica Lindeen, the state’s insurance and securities regulator, effective Thursday. He has been a staff attorney for Lindeen since May 2009. His salary will remain at $70,000 a year.
He will succeed Christina Goe, who’s been with the office since 1999 and now becomes the auditor’s general counsel, focusing on federal and state health insurance reform. Goe’s salary remains at $73,000 a year.
Lindeen, a former lawmaker, said she has known and respected Laslovich as a legislator and attorney and that he believes in her office’s “mission and vision to protect consumers in Montana.”
Laslovich said the auditor’s office “provides excellent legal service to the public and industry” and that he looks forward to working with its talented executive team and dedicated staff to help consumers.
First elected to the House in 2000 as a college student at age 20, Laslovich served there four years before his election to the Senate in 2004 and re-election in 2008. He was a legislator while completing his studies at the University of Montana law school.
Laslovich was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2007 and an assistant Senate minority leader in 2009.
“It’s really hard for me,” Laslovich said of his resignation in an interview. “It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I put my heart and soul into the Senate. In this new position, I couldn’t dedicate the time to representing the people from the Senate district that I would like to. It wouldn’t be fair to them or to the people in the agency.”
As a staff attorney, Laslovich said he intended to take a leave of absence for four months to serve in the Senate, but didn’t believe he could do that as chief legal counsel.
In a letter to his hometown newspaper, the Anaconda Leader, Laslovich told his constituents that he wishes he could have completed his Senate term while holding down the chief counsel’s job.
However, he said it would have been a conflict of interest for him to continue serving in the Senate while serving as Lindeen’s chief legal counsel.
“As chief legal counsel, I will be advocating for certain policy changes relating to securities and insurance law during the next legislative session,” Laslovich wrote. “I simply cannot be an advocate while at the same time voting on the issues for which I am advocating in my role as chief legal counsel.”
In the letter, Laslovich thanked the people of Anaconda for taking a chance on him as a 19-year-old candidate in 2000. He turned 20 shortly before the 2000 election.
“I have prided myself on bring an Anaconda work ethic and Anaconda common sense to the state Capitol for each of the last five legislative sessions,” he wrote.
Laslovich, often mentioned as a future statewide officeholder, told the Missoulian State Bureau he doesn’t consider his resignation to be the end of his political career.
“I’m passionate about politics,” he said. “I hope it’s the beginning. I hope it continues to be a part of my life in the future. By no means does this mean I’m not interested in serving Montanans in the future in a different capacity.“
Laslovich is one of nine state legislators – eight Democrats and one Republican who later changed parties – who since 2006 have been hired for full-time jobs by Democratic statewide elected officials or Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s administration. He becomes the fifth to resign his legislative seat.