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What is Happening in Montana?
Matt Singer on November 10, 2006 - 8:53am
This is unreal. It's three days after the election and we don't really know which party controls either chamber in the Montana legislature. In 2005, Democrats won a clear 27-23 majority in the Senate, while the House ended up being a 50-50 dead tie after a recount and court ruling. The tie would have handed control of the Speakership to the Democrats, due to Montana law which gives the benefit of the doubt to the Governor's party, but three Democrats voted with fifty Republicans to put one of the renegade Dems in the Speaker's seat. Now, the Republicans picked off two Senate seats and a Constitution Party candidate picked off a Democrat in the House, leaving the Senate a tie and the House seems to have ended up 50 GOP, 49 Dem, 1 Const. Assuming the Constitutionalist cuts a deal with the Republicans, they would have functional control of the chamber. But it is Montana, where things apparently can not be that simple. Montana's chambers switch partisan control more frequently than any other in the country. And it appears the balance of power in both chambers may still change against before the legislature actually meets. A recount in Yellowstone County could switch control of the House from GOP to Democrat. The Republican currently leads the Democrat by a mere 4 votes with 5 provisionals waiting to be counted. In the Senate, where it is currently tied, Republican Sam Kitzenberg is publicly flirting with jumping to the independent or Democratic column. Kitzenberg has long been one of the chamber's most liberal Republicans and has grown increasingly distant from his caucus, so the move would not be entirely surprising. If both the recount and Kitzenberg's moves end up favoring the Democrats, they'll hold the Senate and the House will remain functionally tied, with the tie going to the Democrats. When will we actually know what's going on? That's still anybody's guess.