Big Sky Roundup

Panel picks three nominees for consideration for Montana HD 80 vacancy

By: - December 27, 2022 5:04 pm

The Montana State Capitol in the snow on Dec. 1, 2022. (Photo by Nicole Girten/Daily Montanan)

A joint panel of Lewis and Clark County and Powell County Republicans on Tuesday picked three nominees to send to county commissioners to fill the House District 80 seat vacated by Becky Beard earlier this month when she was picked to fill the Senate District 40 seat.

In no particular order, the committee advanced Hailey Oestreicher, Zachary Wirth and Nathan Nachtsheim for consideration by the county commissioners, according to a panelist.

Commissioners from both counties earlier this month appointed Beard, who won reelection in November, to the SD 40 seat, which was vacated when Sen. Terry Gauthier resigned. That left commissioners from the two counties in HD 80 with little time to fill the seat before the 2023 legislative session starts Jan. 2.

The joint panel met last week to interview most of the six candidates — all brought forward by Lewis and Clark County Republicans — though one of them, Nachtsheim, had to leave early because of a family emergency, the Independent Record reported.

The panel at Tuesday’s meeting asked each candidate 12 questions, after which they had three minutes to answer each, according to Heidi Friedlander, the panel member who spoke with the Daily Montanan. She said the panel members — save for the chair from Powell County — then voted on who would be their top, second and third choice for commissioners to consider, and the top three advanced, she said.

The three were also confirmed to be finalists by Darin Gaub, the chair of the Lewis and Clark Republican Central Committee, as well as a spokesperson for Lewis and Clark County.

Oestreicher describes herself as a full-time mother and part-time law student who worked as a legal assistant at a law firm and graduated from Carroll College with a political science degree, according to her LinkedIn page.

She is the wife of Derek Oestreicher, the former chief deputy attorney general who is now chief legal counsel for the Montana Family Foundation.

Wirth is a fifth-generation rancher who owns and operates the Rocking Z Guest Ranch south of Wolf Creek, according to the ranch’s website, who lost to Beard in the 2016 Republican primary for HD 80.

Nachtsheim is the owner of two Helena businesses, Big Sky Sprinklers & Landscaping and Agri Feeds, according to public online profiles.

The other candidates included Valerie Clague, Ken Liston and Drew Zinecker.

Commissioners will meet next Tuesday, Jan. 3, at 2 p.m. at the Powell County courthouse in Deer Lodge to decide which of the finalists to appoint to the HD 80 seat, according to a spokesperson for Lewis and Clark County.

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Blair Miller
Blair Miller

Blair Miller is a reporter based in Helena who primarily covers government, climate and courts. He's been a journalist for more than 12 years, previously based in Denver, Albuquerque and mid-Missouri.