- Associated Press - Thursday, July 3, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The Fourth of July in an election year sees candidates pressing the flesh at parades and other holiday events. Here’s where the candidates in Montana’s U.S. House and U.S. Senate races will be on Friday as well as a look at the week’s most interesting and important developments in Montana’s election campaigns.


U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, the Republican running for U.S. Senate, will be at Independence Day festivities in Great Falls. Democratic U.S. Sen. John Walsh, who is trying to keep the seat he was appointed to earlier this year, will be in Butte. Democratic U.S. House candidate John Lewis also will be in Butte. His opponent, Republican Ryan Zinke, will attend parades in Kalispell and Bigfork.


The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee included the Montana Senate on its list of eight legislative chambers in the U.S. where Democrats have the greatest opportunity to cut into Republican majorities and potentially take control. They also listed the Montana House of Representatives as a chamber to watch for strong Democratic gains in November. Montana Republican Party leaders say they disagree with that assessment. “Montana Republicans are confident about not only maintaining but increasing our majorities in the state House and state Senate,” said Bowen Greenwood, the party’s executive director.


It will be easier for Montana voters to see who is buying political ads on television and radio stations across the state now that more than 2,000 broadcasters across the nation must turn over those records to the Federal Communications Commission. Previously, the records for all but the largest markets were mostly accessible only at the broadcasters’ offices. The Sunlight Foundation has launched politicaladsleuth.com, which tracks information on ad spending based on those records. Its website showed multiple ad buys this week by Karl Rove’s American Crossroads political group in the Missoula, Great Falls and Butte-Bozeman markets. The super PAC recently said it would spend $20 million on ads in six Senate races, including Montana’s. Walsh’s and Daines’ campaigns bought their own ads in those markets, along with Billings and Helena.


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Monday that some companies can hold religious objections allowing them to opt out of health law’s birth control coverage requirement. In response, Walsh said employers have no right to deny women basic health coverage for birth control. The ruling “means women could pay hundreds of dollars more per month because their bosses get to determine the type of health care they receive,” he said in a statement. Daines supported the ruling and said the decision “protects Americans’ right to religious freedom against Obamacare overreach. Every American should be free to live and work in accordance with their religious beliefs.”

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