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  Comments (0) Total Monday Apr. 21, 2014
 
GOP Primary Voters Favoring Return of Past Leaders
Incumbents faced mixed results in some closely-watched GOP primaries
HELENA – Former House Speaker Scott Sales of Bozeman cleared his Republican primary, paving the way for his return to the Legislature, but the GOP's legislative incumbents faced mixed results after Tuesday's vote.

Sales won a three-way primary for a Gallatin County Senate seat that came despite his wife's legal problems. She has pleaded guilty to embezzling from her mother while the elderly women lived with the couple.

Sales beat Kurt Bushnell, a union leader and past supporter of Barack Obama administration policies, and Debra Brown. The primary winner can expect a fairly certain path to the Legislature in a district that generally supports Republicans.

With votes still being counted, Republican voters were favoring another former legislative leader — ex-Senate majority Leader Fred Thomas — in a Bitterroot Valley state Senate primary. Thomas, perhaps best known for his role in utility deregulation in the 1990s, was beating state Rep. Gary MacLaren of Victor 58 percent to 42 percent.

Incumbents faced mixed results in some closely-watched GOP primaries.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Bruce Tutvedt of Kalispell was criticized by more conservative voters in the party for being too moderate, and he was hit with a series of attack mailers. But he led Rollan Roberts 45-44 percent in a three-way primary.

State Sen. Carmine Mowbray was sent to the legislature in 2010 by Lake and Flathead county commissioners to fill an empty seat. But the businesswoman, accused of being too moderate by tea party advocates, was losing in her primary to state Rep. Jannna Taylor of Polson, 45-41 percent, in another three-way race.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Pat Ingraham of Thomason Falls easily fended off a challenge from avowed conservative Kirk McNutt 73-27 percent.

And state Rep. Jesse O'Hara of Great Falls, also accosted by some in the party for not being conservative enough, was topping challenger Randy Pinocci 57-43 percent.

State Rep. David Howard of Park City beat two challengers in his primary, and state Rep. Ted Washburn of Bozeman triumphed in his primary battle.

One of the more outspoken tea party-enthused freshmen of the colorful 2010 legislative session was losing in a close primary battle.

Ray Shaw of Sheridan, who campaigned on a need to work across party lines, was topping state Rep. Bob Wagner 46-44 percent in a three-way primary battle. Wagner often argued with opposition Democrats in floor speeches that featured his thoughts on the foundations of the U.S. Constitution.

State Rep. Alan Hale of Basin, another conservative freshman from the 2010 session who gained notoriety by arguing a drunk-driving crackdown was bad for the tavern business, was behind in his primary battle. Kirk Wagoner of Montana City was beating the bar owner 51-49 percent.

On the Democratic side, incumbent Rep. Tony Belcourt of Box Elder was in a too-close-to-call battle with Clarena Brockie of Harlem. Brockie was ahead by just three votes.

And state Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy of Box Elder was beating former state Sen. Frank Smith of Polar 57-43 percent. In Missoula, state Rep. Ellie Hill beat two challengers for her House seat.
 
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Kellyn Brown
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