Rosendale crushes three challengers, moves on to face three more

Ronning takes Democrat nomination; Rankin leading libertarians

By: - June 7, 2022 11:39 pm

Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale before going on a broadcast on Newsmax on March 3, 2022 (Photo credit via Rep. Matt Rosendale).

Editor’s note: This story was updated on June 10 to reflect the final report by the Montana Secretary that captured 100 percent of the precincts, fully counted. 

In a primary race that featured three Republicans running to the left of incumbent Congressman Matt Rosendale, the representative defended his seat, crushing the three challengers and winning his party’s nomination.

The Glendive-area congressman will advance to the general election, where he’ll face a different type of challenge.

For the Democrats, Penny Ronning of Billings, a former city council member, won her party’s nomination to run for Congress in the Second District, beating one other Billings’ Democrat, Skylar Williams, and Mark Sweeney, a state Senator who died on May 6, before his name could be removed from the ballot.

Ronning and Rosendale will advance to the general election in Montana’s eastern district. Montana became the only state to ever lose a Congressional seat, go back to an at-large district, and regain a seat in the most recent U.S. Census because of population growth. The Second District stretches from the North Dakota border, west encompassing Billings, Great Falls and Helena.

Rosendale and Ronning will also face off against independent Gary Buchanan, a businessman from Billings whose entry into the race could mean that the next representative from the central and eastern part of the state could be sent to Congress without a majority of voters’ support. As of press time, Libertarian Sam Rankin held a lead over two other members of his party, Roger Roots and Samuel Thomas.

Rosendale took three out of every four Republican ballots cast, with 73,140 votes. The next closest challenger on the GOP ballot was Kyle Austin, a pharmacist and business owner from Billings who pulled in 11,884 votes.

“I’m humbled by the overwhelming support from Montanans. I’ve always viewed representing our state as one of the highest privileges. I look forward to the opportunity to once again earn the votes of the people across our state as we move towards the general election,” Rosendale said via Twitter.

By the start of Tuesday, the state of Montana reported nearly 230,000 ballots had been turned in, which translated to about 30 percent of the eligible voters. By the final count, that number had pushed to nearly 40 percent with more than 291,000 votes.

Ronning took 58 percent of the Democrats votes for the Second District, with 21,887 as of press time. Sweeney had nearly 8,550 votes and maintained a second-place finish, edging out candidate Skylar Williams of Billings who received 6,993.

Penny Ronning who is running for Montana’s Second Congressional District (Photo courtesy of Penny Ronning for Congress).

“Our campaign was about Montanans. I was the only political person on the campaign, because this is what it is about: What matters to Montana, not politics,” Ronning told the Daily Montanan on Tuesday evening.

She said the race will now change. In the primary, she said, the challenge becomes representing the party and rallying members to believe you’re the best choice. Now, it will be about specific policies and Rosendale’s record as the incumbent.

“Matt Rosendale has lost before. He’s not God and he’s done such an absolutely horrendous job representing the people of Montana and representing his own party,” Ronning said. “How has Matt Rosendale benefitted Montanans? I mean take a look at his bills and ask, what has he done to impact or benefit the Second District in a meaningful way? He’s voted ‘no’ on everything.”

The Associated Press called the race for both Rosendale and Ronning on Tuesday evening.

In addition to Rosendale, Ronning and Buchanan, libertarian Sam Rankin will also be on the ballot, he captured 43 percent of the vote in a three-way race with 947 votes. Samuel Thomas had 551 votes or 25% and Roger Roots came in third with 519 votes or 24%.

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Darrell Ehrlick
Darrell Ehrlick

Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan, after leading his native state’s largest paper, The Billings Gazette. He is an award-winning journalist, author, historian and teacher, whose career has taken him to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, and Wyoming. With Darrell at the helm, the Gazette staff took Montana’s top newspaper award six times in seven years. Darrell's books include writing the historical chapters of “Billings Memories” Volumes I-III, and “It Happened in Minnesota.” He has taught journalism at Winona State University and Montana State University-Billings, and has served on the student publications board of the University of Wyoming.

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