Montana’s 2024 primary election results (2024)

This story was last updated at 10:02 a.m. June 6, 2024.

More than 60 candidates for state and federal offices are on ballots for consideration by voters across Montana as the state conducts its June 4, 2024, primary election, which selects party nominees to advance to the November general election.

Polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday evening. Montana Free Press staff will update this story periodically as results become available. For results as they’re reported in all races, see our live results dashboard, courtesy of the Associated Press. For more information on specific candidates, see MTFP’s 2024 election guide.

According to the Montana secretary of state’s office, county election officials had already received 248,536 absentee ballots by Tuesday evening — 55% of the total number of ballots sent out via mail statewide. Additional votes were also cast at polls Tuesday.

Note: Election results are not official until county election offices complete the post-election canvass process.

U.S. Senate | U.S. House MT-01 (Western District) | U.S. House MT-02 (Eastern District) | Governor | Secretary of State | Attorney General | Superintendent of Public Instruction | State Auditor | Montana Legislature | Montana Supreme Court | Montana Public Service Commission

FEDERAL DELEGATION

U.S. Senate

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, has overcome a nominal primary challenge from U.S. Navy veteran Michael Hummert, capturing more than 97% of the vote at the time the Associated Press called the race Tuesday evening.

On the Republican side, Bozeman businessman Tim Sheehy, who has the backing of the national GOP establishment, easily defeated former Montana Secretary of State Brad Johnson and Helena environmental contractor Charles Walkingchild with almost 75% of the vote.

Helena resident Michael Downey led Billings resident Robert Barb by about 100 votes in the Green Party Senate primary as of Tuesday evening at around 9:20 p.m. Libertarian Sid Daoud, a Kalispell City Council member, does not have a primary competitor and will advance to the general election.

Background reading

  • Tim Sheehy and the scrum for Tester’s Senate seat

U.S. House MT-01 (Western District)

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke was declared the Republican nominee by the Associated Press at 8:39 p.m. Zinke fended off a challenge from Kalispell pastor Mary Todd in his pursuit of a second consecutive term.

Zinke will face Democrat Monical Tranel, a Missoula attorney, in a rematch of their 2022 race. Tranel has an uncontested primary this year.

Dennis Hayes and Ernie Noble are both on the Libertarian ballot, though Noble said in April that he was suspending his campaign and endorsing Hayes.

U.S. House MT-02 (Eastern District)

State auditor Troy Downing has defeated a broad array of GOP candidates in the race for Montana’s strongly Republican eastern U.S. House district, according to an AP race call. With 44% of ballots counted as of the AP’s call at about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Downing had received about 38% of the vote, easily defeating former Congressman Denny Rehberg, former Drug Enforcement Agency official Stacy Zinn, and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen. The rest of the field comprised Billings pharmacist Kyle Austin, state Sen. Ken Bogner, former state Sen. Ric Holden, and former state Rep. Joel Krautter. Former state Sen. Ed Walker was also on the ballot, though he announced the end of his campaign in April.

On the Democratic side, former lawmaker John Driscoll won the primary, capturing over 33% of votes with nearly all ballots counted as of Wednesday morning. Driscoll, a speaker of the state House in the late 1970s and a Public Service Commissioner through the next decade, defeated Broadus resident Steve Held, who came in second, as well as Billings’ Ming Cabrera and Helena’s Kevin Hamm.

Background reading

  • The GOP scrum for Montana’s second House district

STATE OFFICIALS

Governor

The Associated Press called the Republican primary campaign for incumbent Gov. Greg Gianforte just before 8:40 p.m. Gianforte faced a challenge from state Rep. Tanner Smith, who has sought to capitalize on discontent with the governor among some in the party’s hard-right flank.

Democrat Ryan Busse, a former firearms sales executive, emerged as his party’s nominee shortly before 8:50 p.m., based on an Associated Press race call. He faced a nominal primary challenge from Helena attorney Jim Hunt.

Helena tech entrepreneur and standup comedian Kaiser Leib is unopposed on the Libertarian ticket.

  • Why Gianforte’s reelection bid has drawn a challenge from the right
  • Democrat Ryan Busse launches 2024 campaign for governor

Secretary of State

Incumbent Republican Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen, Democrat challenger Jesse Mullen and Libertarian candidate John Lamb will each advance to the November general election without contested primaries.

Attorney General

Incumbent Attorney General Austin Knudsen, a Republican, has thwarted a primary challenge from Daniels County attorney Logan Olson, according to an AP race call around 9:30 p.m.

With 37% of the ballots counted, Knudsen had captured more than 82% of the votes.

Democratic candidate Ben Alke has no primary opponent.

Superintendent of Public Instruction

Susie Hedalen has defeated rival Sharyl Allen for the Republican nomination to fill outgoing state Superintendent Elsie Arntzen’s seat. The Associated Press called the race shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday, at which point Hedalen had claimed 64% of the vote.Hedalen will now face Democratic candidate Shannon O’Brien, a current state senator, in November’s general election. O’Brien ran unopposed in her party’s primary.

Background reading

  • Lining up to lead the Office of Public Instruction

State Auditor

Public Service Commission President James Brown has bested Helena-area insurance salesman John Jay Willoughby for the GOP nomination, having secured 70% of the vote as of 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. Democratic candidate John Repke, a retired business executive, is unopposed in his primary.

Brown told MTFP Tuesday evening he is “very pleased with the results of the election, particularly the margin of victory.” He attributed the outcome to his tenure at the PSC, which regulates monopoly utilities to balance the financial health of utilities with the interests of their captive ratepayers. Brown said he’s looking forward to addressing the rising costs of health insurance and representing the state’s agricultural interests on the Montana Land Board, which oversees management of state trust lands.

Willoughby told MTFP Wednesday morning that he appreciates that his opponent ran a clean campaign. He said whoever wins the office in November should be ready to propose fixes to the insurance industry on “day one” when the Montana Legislature gavels in next January. He said he’s particularly concerned about rising premiums and “daily” occurrences of non-renewal notices and policy cancellations.

Background reading

  • Current utility board commissioner and insurance salesman square off in GOP primary for state auditor

MONTANA LEGISLATURE

Primary ballots include 44 contested Republican and 15 contested Democratic primaries in state house and senate districts. In many cases, those primaries cover areas that have overwhelmingly favored a single political party in past elections, meaning many of tonight’s winners will likely cruise to easy victories in November.

As primary results come in, MTFP staff are paying particular attention to Republican contests featuring clear rivalries between the party’s hardline and comparatively moderate Solutions Caucus wings. With Democrats likely to remain in the legislative minority heading into the 2025 session, a swing toward one wing of the state’s Republican Party could tilt the Legislature’s political balance on key issues, including renewal of the state’s expanded Medicaid program in the 2025 session.

Gov. Greg Gianforte, who has been criticized by some Republicans for cooperating with prominent Solutions Caucus lawmakers, endorsed candidates in 24 contested GOP primaries. Additionally, the Solutions Caucus-aligned Conservatives4MT political committee has spent about $240,000 trying to influence Republican primaries, backing a list of 27 candidates that has substantial overlap with the governor’s endorsem*nts.

Here’s where those races stand:

Notable Democratic primaries included the following contests:

  • Central Helena’s House District 82, where Pete Elverum beat SK Rossi.
  • Southwest Helena’s House District 79, where Luke Muszkiewicz beat Emily Harris and Anne Woodland.
  • House District 3, north Whitefish and West Glacier, where Debo Powers beat Guthrie Quist.
  • West Missoula’s House District 97, where Melody Cunningham beat Lisa Verlanic Fowler.
  • West Bozeman’s House District 62, where Josh Seckinger beat Rio Roland.
  • West Bozeman’s House District 63, where Peter Strand beat John Hansen.
  • Central and north Bozeman’s House District 65, where Brian Close beat Anja Wookey-Huffman.
  • Downtown Missoula’s House District 100, where current state Rep. SJ Howell fended off a challenge from Tim Garrison.
  • Senate District 21, which spans the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations, where incumbent lawmaker Sharon Stewart-Peregoy beat former lawmaker Rae Peppers.
  • Butte and Anaconda’s Senate District 36, where Sara Novak beat Jessica Wicks.
  • North Missoula and Ronan’s Senate District 46, where Jacinda Morigeau beat CB Pearson.

MONTANA SUPREME COURT

Broadwater County Attorney Cory Swanson and former federal magistrate court judge Jerry Lynch both advanced from the primary election in the race for chief justice of the Montana Supreme Court, according to an AP race call.

With 40% of ballots counted, Swanson had received about 44% of the vote and Lynch had received about 41%. The top two vote-getters in each nominally nonpartisan Supreme Court primary advance to the November general election.

Swanson and Lynch defeated Doug Marshall, an attorney in Carbon County.

The candidates for this year’s other open Supreme Court justice position, Seat 3, are State District Court Judge Katherine Bidegaray, former State Sen. Jerry O’Neil and State District Court Judge Dan Wilson. With 57% of ballots counted at about 11 p.m., Bidegaray had won first place in that race’s primary with 51% of the vote, according to the AP. She will advance to the general election alongside Wilson, who had received 33% of the vote as of 11 p.m. Former Republican lawmaker Jerry O’Neil placed third.

Ballots also include partisan elections for the position of Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court. Incumbent clerk Bowen Greenwood, a Republican, is facing a primary challenge from Senate President Jason Ellsworth. That race was too close to call as of 11 p.m. Tuesday. On the Democratic side, Helena attorney Erin Farris-Olsen appears to have easily defeated U.S. Navy veteran Jordan Ophus. Libertarian candidate Roger Roots is unopposed in his primary.

MONTANA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

PSC District 2

At 9:26 a.m. Wednesday, the AP called the race for former PSC commissioner Brad Molnar, who leads Kirk Bushman, another former commissioner, by about 1,300votes.Molnar secured 52.2% of the ballots cast to Bushman’s 47.8%.

“It was a very close race between two former commissioners, and I’m glad I got chosen,” Molnar told MTFP Wednesday morning. He said he’s looking forward to diving into an interim rate increase that NorthWestern Energy, the state’s largest utility company, may pursue to start recovering costs for the gas plant it’s building in Laurel.

Molnar, a Republican lawmaker who was elected to a four-year term in 2022, said he will finish out his service on interim legislative committees this year and give up his seat in the Montana Senate.

Bushman told MTFP Wednesday morning that he’s happy with the race he ran, even if it didn’t end in his favor.

“I have a job and four kids and a family. You have to prioritize your time and that can make it difficult to get out there and campaign,” said Bushman, a mechanical engineer from Billings. “We did everything we could.”

Bushman ran unsuccessfully for the District 2 seat in 2016 and 2020, both times losing to Tony O’Donnell of Billings, who is termed out.

Democratic candidate Susan Bilo is unopposed in her primary.

PSC District 3

The Republican primary features a three-way contest between Harlowton IT professional Rob Elwood, metallurgical engineer Suzann Nordwick and state Sen. Jeff Welborn.

As of 10:39 a.m., Wednesday morning with 95% of votes counted, Welborn had 39.7% of the vote to Nordwick’s 38.4%. Elwood trailed with 22%.Democratic candidate Leonard Williams is unopposed in his primary.

PSC District 4

Incumbent Commissioner Jennifer Fielder is unopposed in the Republican primary. She also has no Democratic challengers for the District 4 seat, though Elena Evans of Missoula is mounting a campaign as an independent.

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