House Bill 129 proposes citizens decide if county officials are partisan or non-partisan

Posted at 3:29 PM, Jan 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-18 18:51:34-05

BOZEMAN- Local officials in Gallatin County are showing their support for House Bill 129, which would allow residents to choose whether or not their elected offices are tied to a party.

There are 56 counties in Montana, of which 11 of them have non-partisan elected officials. HB 129 would change these numbers by allowing the local voters to choose whether or not elected positions including treasurer, commissioners, and the clerk and recorder are partisan or non-partisan.

Gallatin County Commissioner Don Seifert said one of the advantages of running without a political association is the increase in the pool of candidates and the competitive nature.

“I think the interesting thing is that it makes those of us that are running for office run on our skill set and explain our skill set,” said Seifert. “So it makes us probably campaign harder to get our message out and what sets us apart from our opponents.”

Seifert along with Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin traveled to Helena to testify for the bill. Gootkin said in his opinion offices such as the Sheriff should be aligned with safety and well being of the citizens instead of politics.

“When my phone rings or I get an email from a citizen who has a concern, that is not a factor,” said Gootkin. “it never is and never will be and as Sheriff, you know my job is about public safety and making sure people are safe. There is no room in that for republican or democrat.”

Both Gootkin and Seifert said it is important to know that this bill would not make Gallatin County offices non-partisan but would put the idea of the change on the ballot for citizens to decide.

All three Gallatin County Commissioners wrote letters in support of the bill.

Reporting by Mederios Babb for MTN News