Montana

At a glance

Electoral votes: 3  |  Tossup

Governor:
D Schweitzer

U.S. Senators:
D Baucus  D Tester


U.S. Representatives:

Montana State House:

Montana State Senate: 

Demographics:
2006:
Population 944,632
88.7% White
2.5% Hispanic/Latino
0.6% Asian
6.4% Native American
0.4% Black
1990:
Population 799,065
91.8% White
1.5% Hispanic/Latino
0.5% Asian
6.0% Native American
0.3% Black

Presidential election history:
  • 1972R
  • 1976R
  • 1980R
  • 1984R
  • 1988R
  • 1992D
  • 1996R
  • 2000R
  • 2004R
Back to the Map

 

In the presidential race, Montana has lightened to a pale red, and it's conceivable that Barack Obama might actually take the state from John McCain. Obama has made at least five appearances here and has active offices and an on-the-ground game plan in the state, and his campaign's chief of staff, Jim Messina, is a University of Montana graduate who knows the turf well. Still, with so few electoral votes, Montana won't matter nationally, unless the total electoral counts are extremely close. The presidential race in Montana has more to do with maintaining the momentum of the state's Democrats, who've made notable gains since 2004 (taking a Senate seat, the governorship and control of one chamber of the state Legislature from Republicans).

The last time a Democrat won the presidential race in Montana was 1992, when Bill Clinton lucked out, thanks to Montanans' liking for eccentric third-party candidates. Clinton won a mere 37.6 percent of the votes, but that was enough to beat George W. Bush's 35.1 percent and independent Ross Perot's 26 percent. Libertarian Bob Barr and now-Constitution Party candidate (at least in Montana) Ron Paul, who was popular in much of the West when he was running for the Republican presidential nomination, could have a similar effect dividing the state’s conservative voters in November.

Montana's Legislature has become a key battleground. Democrats took control of the Senate in 2004, ending a decade of Republican lock on both chambers. Now the margins are razor-thin: In the Senate, the Democrats' advantage is 26 seats to the Republicans' 24 seats, and in the House, the Republicans nominal advantage is 50 to 49. (The 100th House seat is held by a superconservative Constitution Party leader who votes with hard-line Republicans.) November's election will test the strength of Montana's Republican hard-liners: They've reacted to their losses by rejecting some experienced moderate Republican politicians in the primary, claiming that will give the party a better chance to regain control of both chambers. It may or may not cause middle-ground voters to swing more to Democrats.

The Montana Public Service Commission, meanwhile, which helps set energy policy and oversees energy companies, has three of its five seats up for grabs. The Montana Conservation Voters group has endorsed three Democrats -- John Vincent, Ron Tussing and Gail Gutsche, who are advocates for efficiency and conservation. They could encourage a shift from pollution-prone coal-fired power plants to more aggressive harnessing of Montana’s huge capacity to produce wind energy. Tussing and Gutsche are challenging two Republican incumbents -- Brad Molnar and Doug Mood -- who voted for deregulation of Montana's utilities in 1997, when they were in the Legislature. Deregulation proved disastrous for customers, however, allowing a huge increase in Montana's electricity rates and the ultimate free-market dismantling of the paternal Montana Power Company. Vincent is facing off against Alan Olson, a Republican who has a better record on clean energy.

Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath, whose roots are in the Irish Democratic stronghold of Butte, seeks the state's most important judicial seat (chief justice on the Montana Supreme Court -- an open seat, as the incumbent is retiring). McGrath has been a champion on some environmental issues, such as cleaning up mining wastes and improving public access to state land. McGrath's opponent in the race, Helena lawyer Ron Waterman, has bipartisan support and helped create Montana's public-defender system. But Waterman has also represented a mining company's challenges to Montana's popular ban on cyanide-process gold mining. Montana Conservation Voters has endorsed McGrath. Montana's colorful gun-loving rancher-slash-Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer is pretty much a shoo-in for re-election. So are Montana's lone representative in the U.S. House, gun-loving rancher-slash-developer Republican Denny Rehberg, who's seeking a fifth term in office, and Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, who also has some ranch roots and seeks a sixth term.

Montana has three ballot measures, but none are controversial. The most notable (I-155) would expand health insurance coverage for kids in needy families. A campaign for a strict anti-abortion constitutional amendment didn't gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot; it would've defined an embryo as a person, and the Catholic Church and some right-to-life groups said it would only result in a futile court battle because it conflicted with the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling, which established a right to abortion.

High Country News Classifieds
  • PROGRAM MANAGER, SUSTAINING FLOWS
    Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • PROGRAM ASSOCIATE - VERDE RIVER EXCHANGE
    Verde River Exchange - Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • CODE COMPLIANCE OFFICER
    Teton County Planning & Building is hiring! Our ideal candidate is a team-player, a problem-solver, pays attention to detail, and can clearly communicate technical material...
  • ARCHITECTURE DRAFTSPERSON/PROJECT MANAGER
    Studio Architects is seeking a full time Architectural drafts-person/project manager with1-3 years of experience to join our firm. At Studio Architects our mission is to...
  • ASSISTANT MANAGER/TRAINEE, COLORADO RANCH
    needed for 16,000+ acre conservation property in south central Colorado. Qualified candidate would have experience working on a ranch or wilderness property, general forestry/fire management...
  • FARM HAND &/OR NANNY IN ESCALANTE
    Nanny for 18-mnth-old. Yearly salary, vacation, health insurance. Spanish/other foreign-language native spkr prefrrd.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Washington Association of Land Trusts seeks an ED to build on WALTs significant success & to lead the association to new levels of achievement. See...
  • BEAUTIFUL CUSTOM STRAWBALE HOME IN WESTERN COLORADO!
    Secluded, energy efficient Southwestern home on 40 wooded acres. Broker - Rand Porter - United Country Real Colorado Properties. 970-261-1248, $425K
  • PUBLIC LANDS ORGANIZER
    The Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, inspiring, and assisting individuals and organizations to value, conserve, enhance, manage, and protect...
  • FORMER RETREAT CENTER/CONSERVATION PROPERTY FOR SALE
    57 acres in Skull Valley, AZ, 17 miles from Prescott, year-round creek, swimming holes, secluded canyon, hiking/meditation trails, oaks, pines, garden, greenhouse. House, office building,...
  • ARIZONA PUBLIC LANDS ORGANIZER
    Title: Public Lands Organizer About the Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF) The AWF is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, inspiring, and assisting individuals and organizations...
  • HISTORIC RANCH HOME W/ 20 ACRES
    Historic 1893 Ranch Headquarters. 4 Bdrm, 3.5 Ba, 4000 ft2. Remodeled 2002. Includes 2 studio apts, stables, arena, workshop, 5 RV hookups. Chirachua & Peloncillo...
  • NORTH TUCSON FOOTHILLS
    11.63 acres of lush desert foothills on Tucson's near north side, secluded, secure, no HOA. 10 minute walk to Waldorf and Montessori schools, regional bike...
  • VICE PRESIDENT OF RETAIL OPERATIONS
    The Vice President of Retail Operations will provide overall leadership and accountability for purchasing, product development, merchandising planning, visual merchandising, retail operational excellence, oversight and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners seeks an experienced fundraiser with excellent communication and organizational skills.
  • MS ACCESS DATABASE PROGRAMER
    Looking for an access programmer. Contract position. Send resume with references and rates to: [email protected] www.prospace.biz
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    position in Phoenix with the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy.
  • ROADS END CABIN NEAR YELLOWSTONE
    Vaulted ceilings, two fireplaces, two bedrooms, loft, jetted tub, wifi. Forest, mountain views. Wildlife. [email protected]
  • ACCOUNTING CLERK
    Our director is seeking to employ the services of an Accounting Clerk to assist with various accounting and administrative tasks. This is a great opportunity...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMUNITY RADIO PROJECT
    Community Radio Project, Cortez, CO (KSJD & the Sunflower Theatre). Visit ksjd.org and click on the Executive Director search link. CRP is an EOE.