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Montana awaits marquee fall as competitive races for House and Senate are set

Kate Ackley, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Montana, which will host one of the nation's hottest Senate contests this fall, moved into general election mode after its Tuesday primaries officially set out the congressional contenders.

First-term Republican Sen. Steve Daines, whom CQ Roll Call ranks as among the most vulnerable in the chamber, will face the state's Democratic governor, Steve Bullock, in a race that has already drawn big political money from outside groups. Neither had a serious primary threat Tuesday.

Meanwhile, former state Rep. Kathleen Williams easily won the Democratic nomination for the state's at-large House seat, defeating state Rep. Tom Winter. With 27% of precincts reporting, she was ahead with 90% of the vote when The Associated Press called the race.

Williams will face state Auditor Matt Rosendale, who bested a six-candidate Republican field that included Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton. With 61% of precincts reporting, Rosendale led Stapleton, 48% to 34%, when the AP called the race.

Williams' relatively smooth primary this cycle is a contrast to her intraparty win in 2018 when it took more of an investment for her to pull out a victory. She also entered the race months earlier this time and had already banked $1.2 million by May 13.

Two years ago, she lost by 5 points to GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte, who won the GOP primary for governor Tuesday.


Rosendale is similarly looking at a do-over this fall after losing a bid for Senate in 2018 to Democrat Jon Tester. He also ran for the House seat in 2014, losing a GOP primary to Ryan Zinke.

A favorite of GOP outside groups, Rosendale benefited from the support of the anti-tax Club for Growth, which spent money to boost his candidacy in the primary.

Rosendale also had $900,000 in the bank as of May 13.

Montana voted for President Donald Trump by more than 20 points in 2016, the same year it also reelected Bullock as governor by 4 points.


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