Update 8:30 a.m.
James Brown conceded the race for a seat on the Montana Supreme Court to incumbent Justice Ingrid Gustafson on Wednesday morning.
Brown issued this statement at about 8:20 a.m.:
“We fell short after a hard-fought campaign where we were significantly outspent by special interest groups and saw millions of dollars in liberal money flood the state in the final weeks of this race. Even so, I am humbled by the high level of support our campaign received from Montanans from all across the Treasure State and from all walks of life.
Running for the Montana Supreme Court has been one of the most rewarding professional experiences of my career and that is due, in part, to the opportunity the race afforded me in meeting great Montanans from Alzada to Libby.
I congratulate Justice Gustafson on her election. To every supporter from across the state, please remember, there’s still important work to do and we can’t give up on our shared goal to restore accountability in our judicial branch and bring balance to the Montana Supreme Court.”
Montana Supreme Court Justice Ingrid Gustafson was leading challenger James Brown in votes early Wednesday morning.
Gustafson had received 218,415 votes - or 54 percent - of the ballots with 67 percent of the precincts reporting as of about 6 a.m., according to the Montana Office of the Secretary of State. Brown had received 183,199 votes, or 46 percent.
Gustafson, the incumbent, was appointed by former Gov. Steve Bullock in 2017. Prior to her appointment, Gustafson was a district court judge in Yellowstone County, one of the busiest judicial districts in the state.
She championed drug courts and sat on the 2015-2016 Commission on Sentencing, which helped create a massive criminal justice reform bill that Bullock signed into law in 2017. Gustafson ran unopposed in 2018 and retained her seat on the bench.
Brown served as the Public Service Commission chairman before running as the Montana Republican Party’s pick for Montana Supreme Court.
In the other contested seat on the state's highest court, incumbent Justice Jim Rice soundly defeated challenger Bill D'Alton. Rice had received 78 percent of the votes by Wednesday morning.