Laurie Bishop suspends U.S. House bid

Livingston lawmaker is first Dem to leave the race

By: - November 17, 2021 4:16 pm

State Rep. Laurie Bishop announces her bid for Montana’s newly formed congressional seat in Livingston on Thursday, July 1. (Courtesy Laurie Bishop for Montana)

Democratic state lawmaker Laurie Bishop announced Wednesday that she will suspend her campaign for U.S. House, instead focusing on re-election to her current state legislative seat.

Bishop, of Livingston, was the first Democrat to formally announce a bid for Montana’s newly created congressional district, which the state earned after demonstrating significant population growth in the 2020 U.S. Census, and now is the first to drop out of the race. In a letter to supporters, Bishop said she came to the decision after evaluating the congressional map that the Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission finalized this month and the impact it would have on her race and the general electoral chances for Democrats.

“Public service has always been at the heart of my decision to run for Congress, and at this moment, the most important way for me to be of service is by continuing to lead our caucus at the state level,” Bishop, who serves as Democratic caucus chair, said in a statement.

Bishop was not alone in announcing her candidacy for Congress before the actual districts were drawn. However, she was perhaps uniquely affected by the results of the process: Park County, Bishop’s home, was drawn into a more conservative eastern Montana district, while Bishop was intent on campaigning in the western district, containing Bozeman, Missoula and Butte. The map has created heartburn among some Democrats and their constituents, who have argued that the congressional map created two districts that unfairly favor Republican candidates.

The law doesn’t actually require congressional candidates to live in-district, and Bishop initially forged ahead with her campaign, though she criticized the final map.

While I respect the process of the independent Districting and Apportionment Commission, I am incredibly disappointed in their final decision,” she said in a statement last week. “The commission had the opportunity to give rural Montanans meaningful representation in Congress, and instead it played politics by separating clear communities of interest and failing to take competitiveness into account in creating this district. They silenced minority voices, including those of Native Americans, students, and rural Democrats who live in districts like mine, for the next decade.”

Supporters of the final map, including the commission’s two Republicans and the non-partisan, tie-breaking chairperson, said it was adequately competitive based on projections from recent congressional results and that it minimized splitting counties while increasing the number of tribal reservations in the western district from one to two.

Bishop will now work to win re-election in her Livingston state house district.

Her departure leaves three Democratic candidates in the primary: Monica Tranel, an Olympic rower and former Public Service Commission staff attorney; Cora Neumann, a public health professional and one-time U.S. Senate candidate; and Tom Winter, a former state legislator from Missoula. On the Republican side, candidates are former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who’s already served in the U.S. House, former state lawmaker Dr. Al Olszewski, and Kalispell pastor Mary Todd.

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Arren Kimbel-Sannit
Arren Kimbel-Sannit

Arren Kimbel-Sannit is an Arizona-bred journalist who has covered politics, policy and power building at every level of government. Before getting his dose of northern exposure, Arren worked as a reporter in all manner of Arizona newsrooms, for the Dallas Morning News and for POLITICO in Washington, D.C. He has a special interest in how land-use decisions affect working-class people, which he displayed through reporting on the epidemic of pedestrian deaths in the U.S. for the Los Angeles Times and PBS Newshour. He's also covered housing, agriculture, the Trump presidency and more.

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