Chouteau County voters handed Fort Benton native Joshua Kassmier a win in Tuesday’s Republican primary in House District 27, sending Darrold Hutchinson his third political defeat in four years.
With all 17 precincts within the district reporting, Kassmier captured his party’s nomination 54 to 46 percent, or 1,281 to 1,080 votes against Hutchinson, according to the Montana Secretary of State website.
“I would like to thank everyone for giving me the opportunity to be your Republican candidate in HD 27,” Kassmier said in a statement by text message this afternoon. “I will always work hard to represent everyone and always do what is right for Montana.”
Hutchinson, a farmer from north of Hingham, was not available for comment before publishing time.
Kassmier faces Democrat Dan Nelsen of Fort Benton in the general election. Incumbent state Rep. Jim O’Hara, R-Fort Benton, did not seek re-election to the seat, opting to mount a Republican primary challenge to incumbent Chouteau County Commissioner Robert Pasha.
The win came despite Hutchinson carrying the other three counties in the district — Cascade, Hill and Liberty. House District 27 includes Liberty and parts of Chouteau, Cascade, and Hill counties.
Hutchinson, a Hill County resident, carried his home county 74 to 25 percent. He bested Kassmier in Cascade County 60 to 39 percent, and in Liberty County 64 to 34 percent.
A Fort Benton native, Hutchinson carried Chouteau County 76 to 23 percent.
Kassmier, who had been an intern to former Montana Republican Sen. Conrad Burns and now works as a crop adjustor, made his political debut last fall when he lost a race for Fort Benton Mayor by four votes.
Tuesday’s primary race marked Hutchinson’s third unsuccessful bid for the seat. Hutchinson challenged then-incumbent state Rep. Roy Hollandsworth, R-Brady, for the seat, and after Hollandsworth was unable to seek re-election in 2016 due to term limits, Hutchinson ran against O’Hara and again lost in the primary.
In other districts, State Rep. Jacob Bachmeier, D-Havre, and Libertarian Connor Burns, also of Havre, did not face primary challenges. The two will go up against one another in November in House District 28, which consists of Havre. No Republican filed to run for the seat.
Neither incumbent state Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, and his general election opponent former state Rep. Gilbert Bruce Meyers, R-Box Elder, faced a primary challenge in the race for House District 32. The district includes the Rocky Boy, Fort Belknap and Fort Peck Indian Reservations and some adjacent communities.
Freshman state Rep. Casey James Knudsen, R-Malta, did not have a primary opponent and does not face a general election challenge in House District 33.
BY ALEX ROSS for The Havre Herald