The 2014 election officially begins
UPDATE 5:30 PM
The Secretary of State's Office has reported a total of 139 Montana candidates filed to run during the first day they could officially do so.
Republican legislative candidates at a news event Thursday afternoon said Montana voters are tired of what they call failed liberal policies both in the state and in Washington D.C.
"The last few legislative sessions have seen Democrat bill after Democrat bill aimed at regulating, restraining and in some cases even suffocating our job killing industries," said Rep. Austin Knudsen (R-Culbertson).
Sen. Fred Thomas (R-Stevensville) acknowledged state Republicans have had "some very difficult times" due to the split seen between moderates and conservatives seen in the 2013 Legislature. But he said the party is trying to fix that.
“Many of us are working concertedly, whether it be behind the scenes or whatever to find the common ground, listen to each other,” he said.
UPDATE 1:30 PM
As of 12:30 PM, 77 candidates how now filed for office at the statewide, federal or legislative level in Montana.
About a dozen Democratic candidates for the state legislature told reporters at noon they feel taking over majorities in the state House and Senate is within reach. Both chambers have been strongly Republican the last two legislative sessions. 2013 House Minority Leader Chuck Hunter (D-Helena) said that resulted in the turning-away many ideas he feels would have helped Montanans. Most dramatically, Republicans decided to turn away federal money to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
“(A refusal) to accept the dollars that Montanans have already sent to Washington DC... to bring them back and put them to work for our citizens,” said Sen. Christine Kaufmann (D-Helena).
She believes Montana can create better communities if more Democrats are elected to the state legislature.
“Where Democrats have great diversity, Republicans right now have deep divisions,” she said, referring to a split between moderate and conservative Republicans on many of the big issues of the 2013 session.
Rep. Hunter said the party expected 70 Democratic candidates to file for office in the next couple days.
The 2014 election season formally kicked off Monday, as candidate filing officially opened at the Montana Secretary of State’s Office.
As of 10 AM, 41 candidates had signed up. Here’s a list of the open offices in Montana at the statewide, federal and legislative levels and corresponding filing fees.
State Rep. Candidate Mary Ann Dunwell (D-Helena) was first in line at 7:30 AM, waiting for the 8 o’clock ceremonial opening of filing day.
“I love Montana, I care for my neighbors, I want to make sure Montanans have a voice in the people’s house,” Dunwell said.
A plate of frosted red, white and blue cookies waited for visitors at the lobby’s front desk. Secretary of State Linda McCulloch sat behind the desk, signing candidates' paperwork.
Candidates don’t have to file at her office, they can mail in their forms, or file online. But there’s a tradition here.
“There’s a bit of a ceremony and it actually is a very exciting day, I have a lot of fun,” she said.
Both the state Republican and Democratic parties plan to spread their message at capitol press events later today.
This marks the first year legislative candidates are filing in new districts established in redistricting efforts over the past few years. These new districts will be in place until 2022.
Candidate filing for the 2014 election closes on March 10th, except for independent or other minor party candidates. They need to gather signatures to run for office and a new state law pushes their filing deadline to June 2nd.