A committee that works to elect Republicans to the Montana Legislature is asking to get involved with a lawsuit seeking to block the Green Party from the state ballot.
This week, the Montana Republican Legislative Campaign Committee filed a motion to intervene as a defendant in the suit, alongside the Montana Green Party and Secretary of State Corey Stapleton. The MRLCC is being represented by House Speaker Austin Knudsen, an attorney from Culbertson.
In their legal brief, the MRLCC argued Green candidates are likely to draw votes away from Democrats, so removing them from the ballot will make it harder for Republican candidates to win certain legislative seats and require the committee to spend more resources in those districts.
The first court hearing in the lawsuit started Tuesday in Helena. The Montana Democratic Party and three supporters filed the suit, claiming some of the signatures used to put the Green Party on the ballot were invalid.
In order to qualify for the ballot, the Green Party had to submit petitions with signatures from at least 5,000 registered Montana voters. They also had to get a minimum number of signatures in at least thirty-four state House districts. That number is five percent of the votes cast in that district for the last winning gubernatorial candidate or 150, whichever is less.
The lawsuit claims about 180 of the signatures the Green Party collected were invalid. Plaintiffs say, if those signatures were thrown out, the party would have only met the minimum requirements in thirty House districts.
Green Party leaders say there’s no ground to challenge those signatures, and they intend to provide evidence that they are valid.
The hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled to reconvene in Helena on Monday.
Green Party representatives reacted to the MRLCC’s filing during a media call on Friday. They said they don’t want their message to be overshadowed by the involvement of the major parties.
“The petty struggle between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party that is taking place right now in which they’re using us as a pawn is just horrible behavior,” said Dani Breck, the Green Party’s state coordinator. “It’s the same old political games that they’ve played for decades and that the people of Montana and the people of this country in general are tired of happening.”
Breck said she does not believe the Republican and Democratic Parties offer a real choice for voters.
There are three legislative races in Montana featuring Green Party candidates:
- In Senate District 49, Greg Strandberg is running against Democratic Sen. Diane Sands and Republican Chase Reynolds.
- In House District 15, Adrien Owen Wagner is running against Democrat Marvin Weatherwax Jr.
- In House District 85, John Gibney is running against Republican Rep. Theresa Manzella and either Laura Jackson or Mary Toews for the Democratic Party. The Green Party has denounced Gibney’s candidacy over comments he made at an anti-immigration rally in 2016.
There will be a contested Green Party primary for U.S. Senate on June 5, between Tim Adams of Three Forks and Steve Kelly of Bozeman. Doug Campbell is running for U.S. House as a Green candidate.