| Okay. Here's the rest of the races Mike Dennison mentioned in his report on the 10 races to watch on election day. These are the Republican-held seats that could flip Democratic.
SD 25 (north-central Billings): Easily the most-watched, most-expensive legislative race in the state, with Democratic Rep. Kendall Van Dyk mounting an aggressive, well-financed challenge to Republican Sen. Roy Brown, who's trying to win a second term. Van Dyk has unleashed a torrent of attack mail against Brown, labeling the former oil developer a tool of "big oil" and other business interests. Brown is striking back by casting Van Dyk, a staffer for Trout Unlimited, as an environmental ideologue bent on killing resource jobs.
If you haven't heard about this race, you're probably living under a rock, politically speaking. The most contested race of the 2010 election. And ugly, to boot.
Kendall Van Dyk proved he's a legisator that gets stuff done: he was the force behind the passage of 2009's HB 190, the stream access bill that ensured Montana anglers have access to Montana rivers, and the first stream access bill passed in 25 years - despite years of controversy and previous bills. Van Dyk's a "lifelong conservationist, a farm kid, a dedicated sportsman, and one of the hardest workers in Montana politics."
In contrast, his opponent, the former oil executive Roy Brown was named by the League of Conservation Voters as one of the nation's "dirty dozen" state-level legislators, a dubious honor to say the least. And in a disturbing turn of events, the state senator recently abandoned his usual moderate stance on issues, and tacked hard right this election cycle, courting Nutcase Koopman and backing
the faulty lawsuit against the recent healthcare bill. And a quick swing through our archives will remind you of Brown's ill-fated and polarizing bid for governor in 2008, which he lost by 35 points and barely edged out a candidate who refused to run and endorsed his opponent, and a perennial parliamentarian candidate of dubious faculties.
It's easy to forget in all the Sturm und Drang surrounding this race that Kendall Van Dyk is the candidate that has an actual history of bipartisanship and compromise in passing legislation that benefits all Montanans, while Brown has steadily and noisily shifted to the right to consolidate his base and woo the Tea Party.
Van Dyk for SD 25.
HD24 (northeast Great Falls, Malmstrom Air Force Base): Republican state Rep. Brian Hoven, who won a close, surprise victory in 2008 in this district that leans Democratic, faces a challenge from well-known teacher and coach Gary Lucero, a Democrat.
This is what I wrote about Brian Hoven in 2008: "Brian Hoven is a businessman and the Chair of the Cascade Republican Party; he ran once for SD12, advocating for Great Fall's coal-burning plant. He wants to eliminate property taxes (d*mn the schools!), slash taxes for business, put a cap on medical lawsuits, favors prayer in school, school vouchers, and is pro-choice. The usual big business Republican." To be fair to Hoven, he was one of the few House Republicans to buck his party's leadership and supported the implementation of CHIP expansion in the last legislature.
Gary Luchero is a popular local middle-school teacher, running on a campaign as a pragmatic moderate. Check both candidates' positions in this Great Falls Tribune profile and KRTV interviews of the race.
HD47 (Billings Heights): Democrat Pam Ellis, a retired schoolteacher and principal, is trying to pick up this open seat held by a retiring Republican. Her opponent is Republican James Knox, a tea party favorite and operator of a computer business.
Ah...James Knox. You really have to sift through Cowgirl's archives to get the full effect of the man's...er..."abilities," from donning costumes, to spamming his candidacy in comment forums using anonymous accounts, from his irrational obsession with the Billings fire department, to his planting of hidden cameras in his yard signs, the man is a "shaky" candidate at best. And that's not even addressing his views, which are pure Tea Party.
Pam Ellis is a Billings native and a retired elementary school teacher with, naturally, a strong platform and promise to be an advocate of education. She's also a proponent of home energy efficiency, renewable energy, and a balanced budget.
Frankly, the choice is friggin' clear, even if you're a Republican. Ellis.
HD77 (Jefferson County): This largely rural district between Helena and Butte has long been held by Republicans, but Democrats hope Sheila Hogan of Clancy can put the now-open seat in their column. Hogan, who runs a job skills program in Helena, narrowly lost a race here four years ago to Rep. Scott Mendenhall, R-Clancy. Her opponent this time is bar owner Alan Hale of Basin.
Here's what I wrote about this race: "HD 77 stretches over much of Jefferson county, and includes a slice of Helena. Here, born-and-bred Butte-ian and miner's daughter, Sheila Hogan, is battling a "constitutional Republican" looking to hand over the keys of the state to multi-national extraction and energy corporations. Hogan is the executive director of the Career Training Institute, and a long-time advocate for jobs in the state, which makes her the ideal candidate in this economic slump marred by joblessness." Hogan!
Check out the the HD 77 profile in the Helena IR, and the interviews with the candidates by KXLH.
HD100 (west Missoula County): Democrat Willis Curdy, a retired teacher and former smokejumper who lost narrowly in this district two years ago, is running again, this time for an open seat. Banker Champ Edmunds is trying to keep the seat Republican.
Willis Curdy was the last-minute replacement candidate (for the stricken Democratic primary winner) to tackle Bill Nooney in Missoula's sole GOP-controlled House district, HD100. This time around he's not only had time to prepare for the election, he's battling for an open seat after Nooney's withdrawal from public service.
Curdy's a fave of the b'birders - a "4th generation Montanan, small business owner, retired high school teacher and retired smokejumper." (I wonder what was harder, the parachuting into wildfires or managing teenagers...) He's running to protect public lands and on a platform of job creation. Edmunds, a banker and Navy vet, just isn't up to snuff.