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Trump, Gianforte move on after primary challenge

(The Center Square) – Less than half of Montana’s voting population turned out for this week’s primary election.

Of the 753,698 registered voters in Big Sky Country, 308,226 or 40.9% voted Tuesday. Still, Montanans did help decide which candidates will appear on the November ballot.

Former President Donald Trump won the Montana Republican Primary with 163,531 or 91% of votes. 16,381 or 9% of Montana’s registered voters had “no preference.” It was a similar story for President Joe Biden. The Delaware Democrat received 93,751 or 91%, with 9,141 or 9% opting for “no preference.” 496 Montanans voted “no preference” for a Green Party candidate.

Montana’s Republican Primary for the U.S. Senate seat was closer. Navy SEAL and Trump-backed Tim Sheehy won the primary with 138,202 or 74% of the vote, compared to Brad Johnson’s 36,440 or 19%. Charles Walkingchild Sr. received 13,033 votes, good enough for 7%.

“Thank you to everyone for their support, but we’re just getting started,” Sheehy said at a campaign event. “It’s time for We The People to make our voices heard, bring in a new generation of leaders, kick out the corrupt career politicians, and Save America!”

Incumbent Democrat Senator Jon Tester won his party primary after receiving 103,341 or 97% of the votes. Michael Hummert took in 3,210 or 3%.

Tester took to social media to say that he and his opponent “could not be more different.”

“He’s a wealthy out-of-stater and a mouthpiece for Mitch McConnell’s agenda,” Tester posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I’m a third-generation dirt farmer and always take my cues from Montanans.”

Green Party candidate Michael Downey was the winner of his party primary. 665 or 62% of Montanans chose Downey over Green Party challenger Robert Barb.

The U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Steve Daines was not up for grabs in this primary. His term does not end until January 2027.

Primaries for U.S. House were also decided this week. Representative Ryan Zinke defeated Republican challenger Mary Todd 74% to 26%. 65,247 voters in District 1 chose Zinke compared to 23,159 for Todd. Zinke will face Democrat Monica Tranel and Libertarian Dennis Hayes in November. Tranel ran unopposed. Hayes defeated Libertarian challenger Ernie Noble 65% to 35% or 379 to 202 votes respectively.

Republican Troy Downing was declared the race winner for U.S. Representative District 2. Downing received 36,050 (36%) votes in a race that featured a who’s who of former and current officeholders and civil servants. These include former U.S. Representative Denny Rehberg (17%), state Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen (9%), state Senator Ken Bogner (9%), former state Senator Ric Holden (7%), and former state Senator Joel Krautter (3%). Former Drug Enforcement Agency official Stacy Zinn (14%) was also on the ballot, as was Billings pharmacist Kyle Austin (3%).

Downing will face Democrat John B. Driscoll in November. Driscoll faced three challengers and won the Democratic primary with 13,316 or 33% of the votes.

District 1 is Montana’s western district. District 2 is the eastern district of Montana. 

Governor Greg Gianforte won the Republican primary with 143,137 votes. Challenger Tanner Smith received 47,015 votes.

“Montanans made it clear that they look forward to four more years of strong, steady, conservative leadership to stand up to Joe Biden,” Gianforte posted on X. “Onward to November.”

Gianforte will face Democrat Ryan Busse. He defeated Jim Hunt in the Democrat primary after bringing in 70,256 votes.

Busse posted on X that he is “proud” to be the candidate to take on Gianforte this November.

“We are fighting for lower property taxes, safeguarding healthcare and privacy, strengthening public schools and protecting our public lands and wildlife,” said Busse. “This is our Montana, and together, we are taking it back.”

Other races to watch include the contest for Attorney General. Incumbent Austin Knudsen won the Republican primary with 146,740 votes. Knudsen will face Democrat Ben Alke in November. Alke ran unopposed.

Results from these and other races come from Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen’s office, with 99.73% of precincts reporting. 


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