HELENA — Incumbent Justice Ingrid Gustafson and PSC Chairman James Brown will compete for the position of Montana Supreme Court Justice in the general election in November.
While both Gustafson and Justice James Rice are up for reelection this year, Gustafson’s primary contest was more crowded, with two challengers to Rice’s one. Montana Supreme Court races are nonpartisan candidates appear on all ballots in the primary.
Gustafson and Brown beat out Lewis and Clark District Court Judge Mike McMahon.
When the Associated Press called the race for Gustafson and Brown at about 10:40 p.m., Gustafson had secured about 52% of votes with Brown coming in at 33% and McMahon trailing behind with 15%.
In her primary campaign, Gustafson said voters should reelect her because she was a dependable and experienced member of the state’s highest court. Former Gov. Steve Bullock appointed Gustafson to her seat 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 is the Montana Republican Party’s pick for Montana Supreme Court. The party’s support as well as Brown’s comments regarding why he chose to run for the state’s highest court raised questions about his commitment to the non-partisan nature of state supreme court races. However, Brown called himself a nonpartisan candidate in a May interview with MTN News. Brown represented American Tradition Partnership, sometimes called a “dark money” group due to its resistance to disclosing its donors or political campaign-related spending. American Tradition Partnership, previously called Western Tradition Partnership, fought Montana’s campaign finance disclosure laws all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2020, Brown ran and won as a Republican for the Public Service.
Rice received 76% of the vote. His challenger, Billings attorney William D’Alton, got 24% of the vote. Both will advance to the general election.
Editor's note: This is a developing story and will be updated.