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Dillon veteran a surprise candidate in U.S. House race

Mark McGinley becomes fifth Republican to file
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Posted at 4:55 PM, Mar 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-02 18:55:39-05

HELENA — A National Guard veteran and counselor at the Montana Youth Challenge program in Dillon has become a surprise candidate in Montana’s crowded 2020 U.S. House race, filing last week as a Republican.

“I’m a political novice,” Mark McGinley told MTN News. “I don’t have deep pockets. I just think I have a resume that suits me very well, as far as serving the people of Montana.”

By paying the $1,740 filing fee last week, McGinley became the fifth Republican officially in the race for Montana’s only U.S. House seat. Two other Republicans have said they’re running, but have yet to file. The deadline is next Monday.

Two Democrats also are in the race. The seat is open this year because incumbent Rep. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, is running for governor.

McGinley, 56, who lives in Dillon, has worked as a teacher, in Townsend, and also spent 30 years in the Montana Army National Guard, retiring last year as a lieutenant colonel.

He works now as lead admissions counselor for the Montana Youth Challenge Academy, a year-and-a-half-long program that helps at-risk teen-agers.

McGinley said he decided to enter the race because he doesn’t see a Republican in the contest with his broad background, who can appeal to conservatives and other Montanans alike.

“I know what the odds are,” he said. “(But) you don’t need a million dollars to try and serve your country in the U.S. Congress. … I think there is a chance for an outsider, a new face, a new voice, someone who is not a career politician, but who has a life of service.”

The other Republicans who’ve filed for the office are state Auditor Matt Rosendale, former state Rep. Debra Lamm of Livingston, Helena farmer-rancher Joe Dooling and political newcomer John Evankovich of Butte.

Rosendale, who’s run statewide three times, is considered the favorite in the June 2 primary, having raised more than $1 million in campaign funds.

The Democratic candidates are Kathleen Williams, who lost Gianforte in 2018, and state Rep. Tom Winter of Missoula. Winter has yet to file, while Williams filed the first possible day, on Jan. 9. She, too, has raised more than $1 million for her campaign.

McGinley said he can appeal to voters who are military veterans. He also noted his background in education and his work in prison ministry programs.

“I’m an optimist,” he said. “I believe there’s not a problem in the world that can’t be solved, but you need to find common ground. That’s a Montana value. People know that, and I think it resonates.”