Custer County voters re-elect Holmlunds

Casey Jones And Ashley Wise Star Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 7, 2018


Custer County voters mostly stuck with the incumbents on Tuesday, re-electing brothers Ken and Keith Holmlund to state House and Custer County commissioner seats respectively.

In battles of political newcomers, Kenneth Bogner won the Senate District 19 race by a wide margin, while Mark Hilderbrand was the voters’ choice for Justice of the Peace.

And in federal races, county electors voted to send Congressman Greg Gianforte back to Washington for a full term, but jettisoned Democratic U.S. Senator Jon Tester in favor of challenger Matt Rosendale, a Republican and state auditor from Glendive. Gianforte won statewide, but Rosendale lost (See stories this page).

There was a large turnout, with 7,070 registered voters casting 4,931, a rate of nearly 70 percent.

Ken Holmlund won reelection in House District 38 by a 2-to-1 margin over Democrat Bert Pezzarossi 2,571 to 1,227.

Holmlund, who will serve the Miles City area for a third two-year term, said he didn’t take anything for granted. He knocked on doors, placed ads and attended events. “I want to thank the voters for their support. I will continue to work diligently for Miles City and eastern Montana,” he said.

Holmlund is a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and could land a vice-chairmanship after the Republican caucus is held in Helena next week.

He said the budget bill and the sunsetting of the Medicaid expansion program will top the legislative agenda in the next session, which begins Jan. 7.

Holmlund said he expects the Legislature will attempt to trim the expansion by adding work requirements and asset tests, but noted he doesn’t expect the expansion program, which serves about 96,000 Montanans, to be dropped.

“I don’t see (the Legislature) just jerking it out from under people,” he said.

Bogner, a former eastern Montana field representative for U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, easily defeated Democrat and Ekalaka rancher Mary Zeiss Stange. Bogner, a Republican, gathered nearly 75 percent of the vote. The final tally was 3,274 to 1,129.

Bogner, who served in the U.S. Marines from 2005-2009, said he hopes to be appointed to the education, business and labor, and/or the fish and game committees.

He said the Medicaid expansion program — “there will probably be some adjustments,” — as well as infrastructure projects will be among the top issues addressed.

After a long hard battle, Mark Hilderbrand was elected as Custer County’s new Justice of the Peace.

Hilderbrand defeated Jeff Faycosh 2,600 votes to 1,941, earning 57 percent of the vote in the nonpartisan race.

“I feel pretty good. I’d like to thank the voters of Custer County,” said Hilderbrand. “I would like to thank my family, friends and co-workers.”

Hilderbrand said he is excited to begin his duties as Justice of the Peace. He said he believes that his involvement in the community as a police officer and now working in retail is what put him ahead of his competition.

“People know who I am. I’m part of the community, not apart from the community,” he said.

Incumbent Keith Holmlund beat out political newcomer Doug Martin in the nonpartisan race for Custer County Commissioner District 2. Holmlund earned 57 percent of the vote, topping Martin 2,639 to 1,981.

This will be Holmlund’s third term as a County Commissioner. “I want to thank the voters for their support. I’ll do my very best to live up to their expectations,” said Holmlund. He said he believes that his past experience is what helped him secure the victory.

Custer County voters gave a thumbs down to a pair of statewide ballot measures.

Initiative 185, which would have raised the tax on a pack of cigarettes or a can of snuff by $2 per container, was rejected 3,221 (66 percent) to 1,640 (34 percent).

Initiative 186, which would have placed additional restrictions on acquiring hard-rock mining permits, was defeated 3,412 (71 percent) to 1,391 (29 percent).

Custer County voters were in full support of Legislative referendums 128 and 129.

Referendum 128 was for the 6-mill tax levy for the Montana University System. The referendum received 2,865 for and 1,907 against.

Referendum 129 was to prohibit ballot collection by certain individuals. The referendum received 3,004 votes for and 1,693 against.

Also on the ballot were several unopposed contests.

Linda Corbett was re-elected as County Clerk and Recorder with 4,384 votes, and Tony Harbaugh was reelected as Sheriff/Coroner with 4,534 votes. Wyatt Glade was re-elected as County Attorney with 4,120 votes.

Doug Ellingson was reelected as County Superintendent of Schools with 4,291 votes, while Tara Moorehead was re-elected as County Treasurer/Assessor with 4,355 votes.

Jason Strouf was re-elected as County Commissioner for District 1 with 4,184 votes.