- Associated Press - Monday, September 1, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - In two months, Montanans will choose two new members of the state’s congressional delegation, which party will be in control for the 2015 Legislature and whether to change the makeup of the state Supreme Court. Here are five things to know about Montana’s midterm elections:


U.S. Rep. Steve Daines’ run for Senate received a boost when Sen. John Walsh dropped out amid allegations that he plagiarized a research paper during his time at the U.S. Army War College. Democrats selected state Rep. Amanda Curtis of Butte to run in Walsh’s place, but she had to start fundraising and organizing her campaign from scratch with less than three months before the Nov. 4 election. Daines, meanwhile, has raised more than $5 million and is making his third statewide campaign. Republicans need a net gain of six seats to take control of the Senate.


The most competitive race in Montana this year may be for the U.S. House seat that Daines is leaving open for his Senate run. Former state Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Whitefish, emerged from a competitive primary with a depleted campaign account, while former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus aide John Lewis faced nominal opposition in the Democratic primary. Zinke’s campaign has tried to portray Lewis as a Washington, D.C., insider from his career with Baucus, while the Democrats have filed a complaint against Zinke for receiving support from the political-action committee he founded, Special Operations for America PAC.


Democrats are seeking to gain control of at least one of the two legislative chambers with the help of a strong candidate field and the first election since legislative districts were redrawn after the 2010 U.S. Census. Republicans have controlled both the state House and Senate for the past two sessions.


Former Montana Solicitor General Lawrence VanDyke is challenging Justice Mike Wheat after the state Supreme Court ruled that VanDyke is eligible to be a candidate. Members of Montana’s 1972 constitutional convention had sued to remove VanDyke from the ballot, saying his inactive status with the state bar until 2013 made him ineligible to run. But the high court disagreed, saying VanDyke met the requirements. Justice Jim Rice faces W. David Herbert in the other contested Supreme Court race.


Only two legislative referendums will be on the ballot after no citizen initiatives mustered the signatures required for certification. One legislative referendum calls for a constitutional amendment changing the name of the state auditor to the commissioner of securities and insurance. The second would end late voter registration the Friday before Election Day and voter registration on Election Day.

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