Montana elections, 2022

The 2022 midterm elections in Montana will determine the state’s representatives in the US Senate and House, as well as the governor and other statewide executive positions, and state legislative seats. With Democrats currently holding the US Senate by the narrowest of margins, Montana’s Senate race between Republican incumbent Steve Daines and Democratic challenger Monica Tranel will draw significant national attention.

Other key races include the open US House seat in the Western District, the gubernatorial election, and state legislative elections that will determine control of the Montana House and Senate. Important issues for Montana voters this election include abortion rights, inflation and the economy, public lands, and the future direction of the state.

Key Races and Candidates

US Senate Race

The US Senate race in Montana pits Republican incumbent Steve Daines against Democratic candidate Monica Tranel. Daines is seeking a second term after first being elected in 2014. Tranel is an energy lawyer who previously served on the Montana Public Service Commission.

Republican – incumbent Steve Daines

Steve Daines is a businessman and former tech executive from Bozeman. He was first elected to the Senate in 2014, ousting Democratic incumbent John Walsh. Daines easily won re-election in 2020 and is now running for a second term. His campaign is focused on energy policy, gun rights, reducing government spending, and supporting law enforcement.

Democratic – Monica Tranel

Monica Tranel is an attorney from Missoula who specializes in energy regulation cases. She previously served on the Montana Public Service Commission from 2013-2021. Her campaign priorities include access to abortion services, addressing climate change, and lowering costs for healthcare and prescription drugs. Tranel supports greater public investment in renewable energy and conservation programs.

US House Race – Western District

The US House race in Montana’s newly formed Western district has Republican Ryan Zinke facing off against Democrat Monica Tranel. This is an open seat created by Montana gaining a 2nd congressional district after the 2020 Census.

Republican – Ryan Zinke

Ryan Zinke is a former US Representative who served as Secretary of Interior under President Trump from 2017-2019. He hails from Whitefish and has a background as a Navy SEAL commander. Zinke is campaigning on increasing domestic energy production, tightening border security, and fighting government overreach.

Democratic – Monica Tranel

In addition to running for US Senate, Democrat Monica Tranel is also the nominee in this US House race. If she wins both races, she would choose which office to fill. Her priorities in the House race are the same as her Senate campaign.

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Governor Race

Incumbent Republican Governor Greg Gianforte faces Democratic challenger Whitney Williams in the race for Montana governor. Gianforte is seeking his first full term after winning a special election in 2020 following Steve Bullock’s resignation.

Republican – Greg Gianforte (incumbent)

Greg Gianforte is a businessman from Bozeman who founded the software company RightNow Technologies. He previously served as Montana’s lone US Representative from 2017-2020 before resigning to run for governor. As governor, Gianforte has signed bills cutting taxes, restricting abortion access, and expanding gun rights. His campaign focuses on economic growth, increasing wages, and workforce development.

Democratic – Whitney Williams

Whitney Williams is a nonprofit executive and former government official from Missoula. She is running on promises to protect public lands, increase access to healthcare, invest in education, and uphold abortion rights. Williams formerly worked in the Clinton administration and served as a senior advisor to the 2008 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.

Other Statewide Races

In addition to the marquee federal and gubernatorial elections, Montanans will vote on races for Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Auditor, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Supreme Court Clerk. There are no US Senate or statewide executive races where an incumbent is running for re-election. The open seat contests have heightened attention on down-ballot races.

State Legislature Races

All 100 seats in the Montana House of Representatives and 25 of the 50 seats in the Montana Senate are up for election in 2022. Republicans currently hold supermajorities in both chambers. Democrats are aiming to flip enough seats to break the GOP’s veto-proof margin as they challenge newly drawn district maps that favor Republicans. Key issues animating legislative races include abortion restrictions, taxes, education funding, and natural resource policy.

Voter Registration and Turnout

Registration Deadlines

The deadline for Montana voters to register online or by mail is October 11, 2022. After this date, voters can register in person through Election Day on November 8 at their county elections office.

Early voting in Montana runs from October 11 through November 7. Counties are also required to offer in-person absentee voting starting 30 days prior to the election.

Early Voting

Montana allows early voting both by mail and in person. All voters are permitted to request an absentee ballot without providing an excuse. Ballots are mailed out to voters starting on October 11. Completed mail ballots must be received by county elections offices by 8 PM on Election Day.

In-person early voting runs concurrently with the absentee period. Counties must provide at least one early voting location from October 11 to November 7. Larger counties offer multiple sites. Early voters can cast ballots at their county elections office or designated satellite locations.

Vote By Mail

While all Montana voters are able to utilize absentee mail ballots, some counties conduct elections entirely by mail. As of 2022, 45 of Montana’s 56 counties mail ballots to all registered voters. The remaining 11 counties still maintain traditional precinct polling places while allowing advance mail ballots.

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Ballot drop boxes are available statewide for returning mail ballots. The locations and hours for drop boxes vary by county. Mailed ballots must be received (not just postmarked) by county elections offices by 8 PM on Election Day.

Same Day Registration

Montana offers same-day voter registration at county elections offices through the close of polls on Election Day. To register and vote on Election Day, voters must provide proof of residency like a Montana driver’s license, paycheck, or student ID.

Over 58,000 Montana voters used same-day registration during the 2020 general election. About 84% of same-day registrants voted early versus on Election Day.

Key Issues

Abortion Rights

Abortion access has become a salient issue across Montana in the wake of the Dobbs Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Two referendum campaigns are aiming to let voters decide whether to uphold recently passed abortion restrictions or establish a right to abortion access in the Montana Constitution.

Republican candidates for federal and statewide offices generally support limiting abortion access, while Democratic candidates favor upholding Roe and expanding reproductive healthcare services. Abortion is expected to be a deciding issue for many Montana voters this November.

Inflation and Economy

Like voters nationally, Montanans rank inflation and economic concerns among the most pressing issues facing their families and the country. Republican candidates are placing blame for inflation on Democratic policies and government spending. Democrats argue that raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy is necessary to reduce costs for working families.

Pocketbook issues like gas prices, food costs, and housing affordability are top of mind for many Montana voters heading into the midterms. Economic anxiety may aid Republicans who seek to tie Democrats to inflation, despite limited state policy levers to directly impact broader price trends.

Public Lands

Management of Montana’s public lands consistently factors into federal and statewide elections. Republicans generally advocate for increased natural resource development like mining, logging, and drilling on public lands to boost local economies and energy production. Democrats tend to favor conservation, wildlife protections, and recreation access for public lands.

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline cancellation, leasing on federal lands, and wilderness designations are front and center. Candidates take distinct stances on striking the right balance between utilization and conservation of Montana’s abundant public lands.

Notable Endorsements

  • Steve Daines – endorsed by former President Donald Trump, Governor Greg Gianforte, the National Rifle Association (NRA), Right to Life, and the US Chamber of Commerce
  • Monica Tranel – endorsed by Emily’s List, NARAL Pro-Choice America, League of Conservation Voters, Planned Parenthood, and former Governor Steve Bullock
  • Ryan Zinke – endorsed by Donald Trump, Greg Gianforte, Steve Daines, the NRA, and Club for Growth
  • Whitney Williams – endorsed by Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice, and Steve Bullock
  • Greg Gianforte – endorsed by Donald Trump, Steve Daines, Ryan Zinke, the NRA, Susan B. Anthony List, and Club for Growth
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Campaign Finance

According to the latest campaign finance reports filed through late October:

  • Steve Daines has raised $13 million and has $5.7 million cash on hand
  • Monica Tranel has raised $3.8 million and has $1.2 million cash on hand
  • Ryan Zinke has raised $6.8 million and has $868k cash on hand
  • Whitney Williams has raised $1.9 million and has $489k cash on hand
  • Greg Gianforte has raised $7.6 million and has $1.5 million cash on hand

Daines, Zinke, and Gianforte hold significant fundraising advantages due to national Republican support. Tranel’s and Williams’ campaigns rely more heavily on Montana-based individual donors. Outside spending from PACs and other groups has topped $50 million across the key races.

Prediction and Polls

Recent polls show Republicans favored in the Senate and House races, while the gubernatorial race looks more competitive.

  • Daines leads Tranel by 8-12 points in polls for US Senate. The race is seen as Likely or Solid Republican by election analysts.
  • Zinke leads Tranel by 10-15 points the US House race. It is rated as Likely or Solid Republican.
  • Gianforte leads Williams by 5-8 points in recent governor polls. The race leans or tilts Republican.

Democrats see an outside path to victory statewide by driving turnout in progressive strongholds like Missoula, Butte, and Native American communities. Republican voter enthusiasm may be tempered in certain races by controversies surrounding candidates like Zinke and Gianforte.

Results and Analysis

To be completed after the November 8 election. This section will provide an overview of the key race outcomes, analysis of factors influencing the results, and implications going forward.

Conclusion

The 2022 midterm elections will be consequential in determining the direction Montana takes over the next two years under a new Congress and in state policymaking. Key races are drawing national attention and outside spending as Democrats seek to gain ground under an unpopular Democratic president while Republicans attempt to capitalize on a favorable national environment. Issues like abortion, the economy, and public lands access are mobilizing voters across the political spectrum. Races up and down the ballot will determine which party controls the federal delegation and state government headed into 2024. Montanans have a slate of competitive, substantive choices to make this November that will influence representation of their interests and priorities under the next Congress and Legislature in Helena.

FAQs

Q: When is Election Day in Montana?

A: General Election Day in Montana is Tuesday, November 8, 2022. Polls are open from 7 AM to 8 PM local time.

Q: What identification do I need to vote in Montana?

A: Montana voters must present a valid photo ID or approved non-photo ID with their name and photo in order to vote. Acceptable options include a Montana driver’s license, state ID card, passport, tribal ID, school ID, or voter confirmation card with photo.

Q: How do I check my voter registration status in Montana?

A: You can verify your registration status online at https://app.mt.gov/voterinfo/. You can also contact your county elections office to confirm.

Q: Can I vote early in Montana?

A: Yes, Montana offers early voting both by mail and in person. All voters can request an absentee ballot. In-person early voting runs from October 11 to November 7 at county elections offices and designated locations.

Q: Where do I find my polling place in Montana?

A: You can lookup your assigned polling place online at https://app.mt.gov/voterinfo/. Voters should confirm their poll site before going to vote on Election Day.

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