On Tuesday, June 5, Democratic incumbent state representative Ellie Hill looked nervous walking into Missoula's Central Bar and Grill. "It's just a lot of adrenaline, I guess," she said, tearing up.
The nerves lingered as Hill mingled among friends at Forward Montana's primary election night watch party, even after results showed Hill beating her nearest opponent, Lou Ann Crowley, by hundreds of votes. The win means Hill will face off with former Missoula City Councilwoman Lyn Hellegaard, a Republican who ran unopposed in her primary, in the general election.
As the ballot tallies came in Tuesday night, Hill's race for House District 94 was one of several in which emotions ran high. At Missoula's Union Club Bar, U.S. House hopeful Dave Strohmaier drank dark beer with his supporters who gathered at tables dotted with campaign literature. Strohmaier, a Missoula City Councilman since 2005, was one of seven Democrats vying for Denny Rehberg's vacated seat. Despite the fact that he trailed Billings State Sen. Kim Gillan as the hours wore on, Strohmaier kept up hope. Gillan ended up winning the primary with 31 percent to Strohmaier's 14 percent. Gillan will now challenge Republican Steve Daines, who garnered 71 percent to win the three-way GOP House primary.
Also at the Union Club, outgoing Associated Students of the University of Montana president and 31-year-old Democratic candidate for House District 98 Jenifer Gursky was already strategizing for her November race against Republican Larry Jones just moments after hearing that she appeared poised to beat David J. Crowley. "It's about boots on the ground," Gursky said.
In the Senate District 46 Democratic primary, outgoing state Rep. Sue Malek beat Missoula attorney Tyler Gernant. Malek will now run against Republican Kevin Blackler who, of the 1,515 total ballots cast, eked out a 25-vote lead over GOP primary challenger Kevin Kerr.
Kimberly Dudik, meanwhile, trounced Jonathan Dunbar with 78 percent in the House District 99 Democratic primary. She'll run against Missoula Republican and gun rights activist Gary Marbut.
In House District 93, University of Montana genetics professor Douglas Coffin drew 78 percent to beat Coy Harwood. Coffin will take on Republican Brandon Simpson in the General Election.
In the Missoula County Commissioner's race, Jean Curtiss won the three-way Democratic primary with 66 percent. In November, she'll face Republican Mark Brady, who won the Republican primary with 74 percent.
Montana's General Election is November 6.