“If the office of secretary of state, attorney general, auditor, or superintendent of public instruction becomes vacant by death, resignation, or disability as determined by law, the governor shall appoint a qualified person to serve in that office until the next general election and until a successor is elected and qualified. The person elected to fill a vacancy shall hold the office until the expiration of the term for which his predecessor was elected.”
So Governor Bullock will appoint Matt Rosendale’s successor to the Auditor’s Office…should Rosendale win his U.S. Senate race.
And who might Bullock appoint?
Well, I’m certain it’ll be a Democrat.
That narrows down the list considerably, as there just aren’t that many Democrats in the state.
Still, I’d like to mention 7 in detail and then another handful in passing.
I think the leading candidate could be Jesse Laslovich.
As you might remember, he lost the 2016 Auditor race to Rosendale, garnering 46% to Rosendale’s 53%.
Still, Laslovich got nearly 225,000 votes.
I’m not sure what Laslovich is doing today, but he’s tried for the office before, and he’ll likely try for another statewide office again.
Getting him a toehold into the Auditor’s Office two years before the office’s next election would go a long way in cementing his statewide future.
I’d put the odds at 5-to-1.
The next leading candidate would be Kathleen Williams.
She only garnered 37,000 votes this past June, but I expect she’ll get around 180,000 votes this fall.
Sounds like a lot, but Gianforte will probably get more than 200,000 votes.
So Kathleen’ll be in a pickle. Bullock could help her out of that by giving her a consolation prize: the Auditor’s Office.
This would be a good stepping stone for Kathleen, too. She could use the office to gain stature and tour the state for two years, running for it outright in 2020 or going for the Governor’s Office that year against likely candidate, Tim Fox. Hell, she might even go for U.S. House again in two years…it’s hard to say.
Still, I’m not sure how close the Democratic Establishment in Montana is to candidates like Williams. For all I know, they’re not that fond of her. They usually aren’t when it comes to upstarts.
I’d put the odds of Kathleen getting Rosendale’s old job at 15-to-1.
Another leading candidate is Andy Shirtliff, who’s currently running for PSC District #5 out of Helena.
Republicans turned out twice as many voters for this primary race than Democrats did, which doesn’t bode well for Shirtliff.
So he’ll probably lose this one.
Considering he worked in Bullock’s Governor’s Office before, and clearly has higher political ambitions, I think it’s fair to say that Bullock will consider him.
I’ll put his odds at 20-to-1.
The next most likely candidate for Auditor is Pat Noonan, who lost his attempt at the PSC in 2016.
He served in the legislature for many years and I think he and Bullock are friendly.
I’m sure he’d jump at the chance to take over a statewide office for two years, and I could see him running for it again in 2020 and possibly one more time in 2024.
I’d put his odds at 30-to-1.
Another likely candidate is Galen Hollenbaugh, who ran for PSC in 2014 and lost then go appointed as head of the Labor Department in 2017.
I don’t view him as too likely, mainly because Bullock’s already appointed him to fill a seat.
I’ll put his odds at 50-to-1.
Another candidate that’s like Hollenbaugh is John Lewis, who lost his bid for the U.S. House in 2014 against Zinke.
Lewis got about 149,000 votes to Zinke’s 203,000, or 40% to Zinke’s 55%.
I don’t think Lewis is very likely, as he was appointed to head up the Department of Administration in 2016.
If we keep playing musical chairs with the few statewide-level Democrats we have, then we’ll soon run out of people before we run out of chairs.
I’ll put Lewis’s odds at 75-to-1.
I’ll mention Jacob Bachmeier as a possible candidate, but a very long-shot one.
He’s currently representing Havre in the legislature, and the thing with Democratic legislators is that they’re so few and far between that you don’t want to go and pluck them out of that body and put them somewhere else.
It screws up the already screwed up vote counts, which rarely favor Dems.
So I don’t think Bullock would pull anyone out of the legislature just as the legislature is getting going in 2019.
I’ll put Bachmeier’s odds at 100-to-1.
And that’s all I’ll analyze closely.
- Other possible candidates – should they lose their legislative races in 40 days – are Kim Dudik, Diane Sands, and probably a few in other areas I don't know.
- Rex Renk is another possibility, should he lose his bid for Clerk of the Supreme Court, but I think he’s unlikely.
- Perhaps Ellie Hill from Missoula would be chosen, but I think she’s taking a break from politics.
- Tyrel Suzor-Hoy is one that got a bit of name-recognition in certain circles with his primary loss this year, but I don’t think he’ll be viewed as ready for a statewide position.
- Rob Farris-Olsen lost his primary bid against Mary Caferro this year, even though he had a lot of Democratic support. While he’s a possibility, I don’t think he’s a serious one.
And that’s all I can think of.
Democrats in Montana just don’t have a lot of people sitting on their bench.