Rep. Beard to fill vacancy in Senate District 40 following Gauthier resignation
Now, replacement process will begin to fill Beard’s House seat
Rep. Becky Beard will replace Sen. Terry Gauthier following his resignation last month. (Photo by Nicole Girten/Daily Montanan)
Rep. Becky Beard was selected to fill the vacancy left by Sen. Terry Gauthier in Senate District 40 by a joint board made up of commissioners from Lewis and Clark and Powell counties held Monday in Helena.
Beard won five votes out of the six commissioners, according to Lewis and Clark County Commission Chairman Jim McCormick. Beard currently serves as the House representative for House District 80, and she said that she will resign her house seat shortly in order to get the replacement process started for her seat. She is a a Republican.
She said she was stunned by the win as there were great candidates, as well as the fact that her constituency just doubled.
“I get to go meet a whole lot more people, so that’s gonna be great,” Beard said.
Other candidates included Conrad Evarts, a local businessman who ran for Lewis and Clark county commission earlier this year; and Matt Olson, who ran for Senate District 42 but lost to Sen.-elect Mary Ann Dunwell. Olson was publicly endorsed by Gauthier for the position.
Lewis and Clark County Commissioner Andy Hunthausen was the odd-vote-out, telling Lee Newspapers on Tuesday he voted for Olson because of the Gauthier endorsement and that he believes Olson’s political views were more in line with voters who elected Gauthier.
Gauthier announced last month that he was resigning from the position to go on a 20-country motorcycle tour that starts in March, as reported in the Independent Record, which would conflict with the upcoming legislative session. Gauthier’s term was slated to end in 2025. Gauthier wasn’t immediately available by phone following the vote.
Commissioners took turns asking questions of each candidate, which each candidate getting an opportunity to respond.
In response to a question about hopes for the upcoming session, Beard said she would like to see refunding to Montana taxpayers out of the $2 billion budget surplus, and have the legislature take action in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding abortion.
“We need to address that, and quickly, because that’s something that’s outside the normal realm of what the legislators deal with,” Beard said.
She also said she has a number of bill drafts ready to go, and that introducing them in the Senate would give them more “oomph.” Beard has 16 drafts and one bill introduced out of the Revenue Interim Committee for the biennium budget.
When asked about what the state should prioritize, Beard responded that the state does too many services and tries to be “everything to everyone.”
“We could actually enhance our economy, do what’s right, let our economy grow,” she said. “And that will lift everyone up.”
Olson spoke to the housing crisis in the state and wanting young people to have the same access his generation did to be able to buy property and start a family.
Evarts said he wanted to see less bill drafts in the queue as he saw the government’s job was to solely facilitate commerce.
“I’m the type of conservative that wants to see fewer bills, fewer regulations, minimize obstructions to business, minimize people’s ability to profit or minimize the obstructions to people prospering and being left alone, basically,” Evarts said, occasionally sipping from a coffee canteen with the inscription “liberal tears.”
During the public comment period at the top of the meeting Evarts requested that Commissioner Hunthausen recuse himself from the process saying that he had previously donated to Democratic candidates in the past.
“This is a public discussion and people are entitled to bring whatever point they want to make forward and we heard that today and I respect that,” McCormick said to the press following the meeting.
Evarts said following the meeting that the choice was “idiotic” from a GOP standpoint as the process needed to happen again to fill Beard’s seat.
“It’s an unforced error for the GOP,” he said.
The Lewis and Clark County Republican Central Committee along with the Powell County Republican Central Committee in the coming days will put forth names of candidates for the commission to consider in a likely expedited process due to the upcoming session.
Montana Code Annotated formally gives the central committee 45 days to propose a list of prospective appointees, and the appointing board 15 days to notify the Secretary of State’s office of their decision.
This story was updated to include additional context on the commissioners’ votes taken on Monday.
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