A race that may get nationwide attention is shaping up in Montana.
State Auditor Matt Rosendale won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in Tuesday’s primary election, setting up a contest with Democrat Jon Tester, of Big Sandy, who is seeking a third six-year term in the Nov. 6 election.
“The battle of the flattops has finally begun,” Rosendale said after his victory, alluding to the similar hairstyles he and Tester share. But, he said, it’s he and not Tester that is the defender of Montana values.
“I’m not running to bring home the bacon, I‘m running to slaughter the hog of big government,” Rosendale said.
Republicans believe Tester is vulnerable because Montana voted for President Donald Trump by more than 20 percentage points over Democrat Hillary Clinton, and Tester, in his previous victories, had never received more than 50 percent of the vote.
But Tester supporters say that Montanans have a long history of ticket splitting and think Tester will win a third term.
While other Democratic senators in Trump-leaning states have moderated their voting records, Tester for the most part, has followed the party line.
Rosendale defeated former Yellowstone County Judge Russ Fagg, Big Sky businessman Troy Downing and state lawmaker Al Olszewski. Rosendale got 34 percent of the vote, Fagg 28; Olszewski and Downing got 19 percent each.
Rosendale did well throughout most of the state, carrying Hill County. Olszewski carried Blaine and Liberty counties, as well as the Flathead region. Fagg did his best in populous Yellowstone County, where his hometown of Billings is located.
Olszewski’s campaign did not raise the same amount of money as his foes. Downing’s campaign was beset by various scandals. Opponents said he really lived in California. Downing was charged with various hunting violations because staffers for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks said he paid for resident licenses that should have been non-resident licenses. Downing said the charges were political because they were brought by the administration of Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat.
Libertarian Rick Breckenridge and Green Party candidate Steve Kelly finished out the list of contenders, though Green Party petitions that placed the party on the ballot are being challenged in court.
Here are the results from Hi-Line counties on the U.S. Senate race:
Chouteau County (50 percent voter turnout):
Olszewski- 32 percent (374 votes)
Rosendale- 25 percent (297)
Fagg- 22 percent (263)
Downing- 21 percent (251)
Scott Kelly- 86 percent (six votes)
Timothy Adams- (one vote)
Blaine County (36 percent voter turnout):
Olszewski- 42 percent (286 votes)
Rosendale- 22 percent (146)
Fagg- 21 percent (143)
Downing- 15 percent (99)
Timothy Adams- 60 percent (three votes)
Scott Kelly- 40 percent (two votes)
Hill County (40 percent voter turnout):
Rosendale 33 percent (496 votes)
Fagg 24 percent (366)
Olszewski 21 percent (319)
Downing 21 percent (309)
Steve Kelly- 67 percent (8 votes)
Timothy Adams- 33 percent (4 votes)
Liberty County (74 percent voter turnout ):
Olszewski 33 percent (232 votes)
Rosendale 28 percent (198 votes)
Fagg 20 percent (142 votes)
Downing 18 percent (127 votes)
Timothy Adams- 100 percent (one vote)
Steve Kelly- none