Tale of the tape
Just how big is the bout between Tester and Rehberg?
Montana's Senate race leads the rest of the country in television ad counts, with a total of 25,211 ads aired between Oct. 1 and Oct. 21. That equals roughly 378,165 minutes of airtime, or the same amount of time it would take to watch all nine seasons of "Seinfeld" twice.
Jon Tester's campaign ranked first by airing 5,485 individual ads between Oct. 1 and Oct. 21, followed by Rehberg with 5,058, the National Republican Senatorial Committee with 4,185 and Crossroads GPS with 3,809.
As of Oct. 30, the Federal Election Commission reported $21.6 million in independent expenditures made by 40 third-party organizations in Montana's Senate race. The expenditures are roughly the same as what Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick made in salary and endorsements over the last year.
Karl Rove's nonprofit Crossroads GPS has spent an estimated $5 million on advertising opposing Tester.
Republicans only need to win four seats in the U.S. Senate in 2012 to gain a party majority. Six seats nationwide are considered "in play" this election, including Montana's.
Under the radar
Smaller races you should be watching, but probably aren't
HD 99: Dudik vs. Marbut
The race to succeed Democrat Betsy Hands is full of intrigue. On one side there's Gary Marbut, a Republican, gun-rights advocate, organic gardener and self-described energy efficiency "guru" who's been endorsed by the Montana Cannabis Industry Association. On the other is Democrat Kimberly Dudik, a former assistant state attorney general, registered nurse and mother of two.
While Marbut describes himself as a libertarian and cuts across traditional conservative ideology, he and Dudik have stark philosophical differences that adhere to their respective party platforms. For example, Marbut's against Obamacare and Dudik supports it; Marbut's organization, the Montana Shooting Sports Association, fought alongside American Tradition Partnership in a lawsuit that reversed Montana's century-old ban on corporate campaign spending, while Dudik is critical of recent judicial decisions like Citizens United that loosen campaign spending restrictions.
A Marbut win would surprise (in 2010, Hands took 57 percent of the vote, compared to Republican Brian Barnett's 34 percent), though when a Republican earns the backing of the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, all bets are off.
Lake County Justice of the Peace
This race is a movie script in the making. First of all, the position's open because former Lake County Justice of the Peace Chuck Wall abruptly resigned in August amid sexual harassment complaints. That opened the door for an unusually large field of 12 candidates to appear on the ballot.
But the star of the script is former Lake County detective Steve Kendley. Hoping to put an end to allegations of misconduct in the Lake County Sheriff's Office, Kendley ran for sheriff in 2010, but lost to current Sheriff Jay Doyle. Then, in February of this year, Kendley and four other current and former Lake County law enforcement officers filed a federal lawsuit against Doyle, alleging that Doyle and other colleagues retaliated against them for bringing forward evidence of wrongdoing within the department. And then, in August, Doyle fired Kendley because Doyle said he couldn't accommodate a wrist injury Kendley suffered during a SWAT training exercise in late 2009. Kendley subsequently filed a grievance against Doyle, claiming that he violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Kendley told the Indy in August that when he graduated from the law enforcement academy in 2005, "my badge was pretty shiny, and I believed absolutely that if a cop said it, that's the truth." But after working in Lake County, he doesn't think that anymore. "I believe that honest police officers will love me being a judge," he said.
Any Democrat running in Ravalli County
Many Republicans in Ravalli County are, frankly, a little nuts. The all-Republican Ravalli County Board of Commissioners, for example, has been working over the past year to return the heavily forested Bitterroot Valley to a resource extraction-based economy through "coordination," a scheme that basically attempts to usurp federal control of federal lands. Good luck with that.