On Wednesday, the dust finally settled in the races for Montana’s Public Service Commission, and the two Democratic incumbents had lost.
In District 3, Republican challenger Roger Koopman defeated John Vincent by less than 2 percentage points.
Koopman said he knew it would be difficult to defeat Vincent but it came down to the voters’ priorities.
“Voters wanted a full-time commissioner and felt that the political agendas and infighting on the PSC needed to be replaced with a more deliberative and businesslike approach that would keep utility rates under control,” Koopman said in a written statement.
When the votes were broken down by county, it was clear that Koopman benefitted from strong Republican support in Beaverhead, Broadwater, Madison, Musselshell, Stillwater and Sweet Grass counties. In all those counties, Koopman held a lead of around 30 points.
However, closer to Gallatin County, where the two candidates are more well-known, having represented residents in the state Legislature, Vincent was favored.
Vincent received significant support in Deer Lodge and Silver Bow counties.
Votes from Gallatin and Park counties were fairly evenly split between the two, with Gallatin leaning toward Vincent and Park leaning toward Koopman.
In the other two districts, Republican Bob Lake defeated Democratic incumbent Gail Gutsche in District 4 and Republican Kirk Bushman defeated Democrat Chuck Tooley for the open seat in District 2. All the races were within 2 to 6 percentage points.
The Republican candidates have indicated they will push to eliminate Montana’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, a goal used by several states to incorporate a minimum level of renewable sources in state energy services.
Laura Lundquist can be reached at 582-2638 or firstname.lastname@example.org.