Montana Free Press

Election 2024 Guide

Montana's candidates for state and federal office.

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Last update: Jul 9, 2024
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Ryan Busse
Montana Democratic candidate
for Governor

Ryan Busse

Former firearms sales executive

Active candidates for Governor

General election nominees were selected via the June 4, 2024, primary election.

Republican

Democrat

Libertarian

Busse, 54 as of Election Day, spent 25 years working as a salesman for the firearm company Kimber. He left his position as vice president of sales in 2020 and published a memoir, “Gunfight,” criticizing radicalization in the firearms industry the following year.

Busse, who was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and grew up on his family’s ranch in northwestern Kansas, has lived in the Flathead Valley since 1995. Busse has said his time in Montana has helped shape his identity as an environmental and conservation advocate. He previously served as a volunteer board member and board chair for both Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and Montana Conservation Voters.

“My Montana is a place where hardworking people make a good living for themselves, raise their kids with equal opportunity,” Busse said in his first campaign video. “Unfortunately the Montana that I love, and that my kids have been raised in, is being threatened right now.”

Busse has not previously held elected office. As he has campaigned for governor, Busse has pledged to make property taxes more equitable, stabilize school funding and protect reproductive rights and abortion access.

Busse was cited for hunting birds without a license in 1998, according to Lee Newspapers, paying a $120 fine. He has said he made a mistake about which combination of hunting licenses he needed to purchase.

This biography is based on Busse’s memoir, responses to MTFP and his campaign materials.

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ON THE ISSUES

Answers here were solicited from candidates via a written questionnaire conducted by MTFP in April 2024. Responses were limited to 1,000 characters and edited lightly for punctuation and spelling. Candidates were asked to focus on the positives their service would bring the state instead of making rhetorical attacks on their opponents. Responses have not been exhaustively fact-checked.

Many Montanans are concerned about rising residential property taxes, which primarily fund local government services but are calculated through a system set at the state level. What if any changes to the state tax system would you support?
Ryan Busse:

Montanans’ concerns over Greg Gianforte’s reckless, record property tax hike on Montana homeowners is the biggest and loudest concern I hear on the campaign trail. I hear it from lifelong Republicans, even elected Republican leaders, who wonder why their wealthy governor, and his supermajority in the Montana Legislature, raised taxes on them while giving tax breaks to corporations. Gianforte also gave tax breaks to himself while increasing taxes on his neighbors! As governor, I will demand the Legislature adjust the property tax rate when home values increase to prevent the burden falling on homeowners, as previous Republican and Democratic governors have done. I also support the wealthy and corporations paying their fair share. Billionaires and millionaires who buy up third or fourth homes here should be on the hook for ensuring that our community heroes — law enforcement officers, teachers and nurses — have an opportunity to live in safe, affordable homes in the communities they serve.

Compare to competing candidates
Do you believe changes to Montana’s school finance system are necessary to ensure locally administered school districts have the funding they need to meet their constitutional obligation to provide students with a quality education? What if any changes would you advocate for over the next four years as governor?
Ryan Busse:

Our Constitution guarantees “equality of educational opportunity” to every Montanan, and this isn’t up for debate. That means whenever schools in our state face shortfalls, we have a constitutional obligation to roll up our sleeves and find funding, without unfairly heaping the burden solely onto ordinary homeowners, and without creating chaos and uncertainty for counties, as Gov. Gianforte has recklessly done. I strongly support adequately funding all public schools in Montana with a tax system that doesn’t let the wealthy off the hook while ordinary homeowners get Gianforte’s additional tax bills. As governor, I would also never falsely blame higher property taxes on county commissioners or municipal leaders, as Gov. Gianforte has done. And unlike Gov. Gianforte, I also strongly oppose any effort to fund private or religious schools with public tax revenue.

Compare to competing candidates
Montana maintains largely unencumbered legal access to abortion as a result of the state Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Montana Constitution’s right of privacy, even as other states restrict when and how patients can terminate their pregnancies. What are your priorities regarding abortion access?
Ryan Busse:

I strongly support a woman’s constitutional right to make whatever health care decisions are best for her health and her family and her future, including whether or when to have a family, without interference from any government or politician. I support a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, which is guaranteed in our Constitution as a matter of privacy. I support strengthening those rights and freedoms. Greg Gianforte, and a handful of extremists in the Montana Legislature, are dangerously hell-bent on taking those rights and freedoms away.

Compare to competing candidates
Montana is one of the states that expanded Medicaid access under the federal Affordable Care Act, bringing health coverage to previously uninsured populations. As governor, would you sign a bill reauthorizing Montana’s expanded Medicaid program in its current form in 2025?
Ryan Busse:

Yes. Folding more Montanans into Medicaid coverage was a bipartisan solution that has only improved the lives and livelihood of countless people. It has provided certainty and stability in our communities — for kids, seniors and Indigenous people. And it has saved all of us money in the long term. When asked about the 133,000 Montanans who lost Medicaid coverage under Gianforte’s watch, including 36,000 children, he responded that his plan for stripping health care was “working as intended.” That kind of approach is dangerous, cruel, costly and immoral.

Compare to competing candidates
Housing costs are a concern for many Montanans. What should state government do to push rents and home prices toward levels that are reasonably affordable for middle- and low-income residents?
Ryan Busse:

Montana faces a housing crisis that Greg Gianforte has overseen, while making our state the most expensive it’s ever been. And only someone as wealthy as him would have the gall to call his own crisis “The Montana Miracle.” The first thing I’ll do as governor is to stop making the problem worse — as Gov. Gianforte has done. Look, he raised property taxes on ordinary homeowners (while cutting his own taxes) and proclaimed “Montana is a great place to sell” without doing the hard work of making our state more affordable and more livable (he has certainly not looked out for public schools, law enforcement agencies or hospitals). We must ensure that our community heroes — law enforcement officers, teachers and nurses — have an opportunity to live in safe, affordable homes in the communities they serve, and we can do that by reexamining our tax system to make sure that billionaires and millionaires (like Gianforte) who drive up home prices here are on the hook for their fair share.

Compare to competing candidates
What role do you think faith should play in Montana’s public life?
Ryan Busse:

While I deeply respect the First Amendment right for all people to practice whatever faith they choose, I also believe in the First Amendment guarantee that our government respects no establishment of religion. To that end, I have significant concerns about Greg Gianforte’s efforts to fund private religious schools with public tax dollars. As governor, he wants to impose his extreme religious views on the rest of us, and I’ll fight his betrayal of our First Amendment rights at every turn.

Compare to competing candidates

MTFP COVERAGE OF Busse

CAMPAIGN FINANCE

Campaign finance information for non-federal candidates is publicly available through the state Campaign Electronic Reporting System maintained by the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices. MTFP isn't presenting that data on this guide at the current time because the COPP system doesn't make it possible to easily export reliable campaign finance summary data for the races that office oversees.

Election outcomes

June 4 primary – Democratic candidates
CandidateVotesPercentage
RYAN BUSSE70,26071.0%
JIM HUNT28,67529.0%
Count reported by Montana secretary of state as of Jun 10, 2024.

COMMON VOTING QUESTIONS

When are Montana’s 2024 elections?

Voters will pick which candidates advance to the November general election in the June primary, which is scheduled for Tuesday, June 4. Voters will pick the candidates who will ultimately fill each office on the ballot in the November election, which is set for Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Who runs Montana’s elections?

Montana elections are administered at the county level. The process is overseen by county clerks and election administrators, who help to train and monitor the volunteer election judges that staff the polls. Ballots are typically processed and counted at central county locations, with the results reported to the Montana secretary of state’s office via a statewide software system called ElectMT.

Once polls close, the secretary of state’s office provides results through its website. The state-level office also provides guidance to local election administrators to ensure compliance with state election laws. Additionally, enforcing compliance with some laws governing political campaigns, particularly those involving campaign finance, falls to a separate office known as the Commissioner of Political Practices.

Do I need to be registered in order to vote?

Yes. If you’re unsure about your registration status, you can check it through the Montana secretary of state's My Voter Page. You can register to vote by stopping by your county election office any time during regular business hours to pick up an application. After you’ve filled it out, you’ll need to get it back to your county election office by mail or in person (the latter option is strongly recommended close to Election Day to ensure your application is received in time). If you do present your application in person, you’ll have to provide a photo ID or the last four digits of your Social Security number. If you happen to be applying for a Montana driver’s license or identification card before the election, you can register to vote at the same time.

Can I register to vote on Election Day?

Yes. The state Legislature has sought to enact an earlier registration deadline, but under a March 2024 ruling by the Montana Supreme Court, same-day voter registration remains legal in Montana. Residents can register to vote or update their voter registration at their county’s election office prior to 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Does Montana have voter ID requirements?

Yes, you will be required to present identification when voting at the polls. However, under the Montana Supreme Court’s March ruling, changes made to those requirements by the 2021 Legislature remain blocked. The current forms of identification voters can use at the polls are a current Montana driver’s license, state-issued photo ID, tribal or military photo ID, a U.S. passport or a student ID. If you don’t have a photo ID, you can use a utility bill, a bank statement, a voter confirmation card or any other government document that shows your name and address.

Are there situations where I wouldn't be eligible to vote?

According to state law, you can't vote if you'll be under age 18 on Election Day, are not a U.S. citizen, or have lived in Montana less than 30 days. Convicted felons who are currently incarcerated in a penal facility and people whom judges have ruled to be of unsound mind are also ineligible to vote. Otherwise, you're good to go.

Can I vote online?

No, that’s not an option in Montana.

Can I vote by mail?

Yes, you can sign up as an absentee voter by checking a box on your voter registration form. If you’re already registered to vote, you can fill out a separate form and submit it to your county election office.

If you’re registered as an absentee voter, a ballot should be mailed to you a few weeks in advance of each election day. You can make sure your address is current via the My Voter page. County election officials are slated to mail ballots to voters for the June 2024 primary election May 10.

You can return ballots by mail, or drop them off in person at your county’s election office. Either way, the election office must receive your ballot by 8 p.m. on Election Day in order to count it.

How do I vote in person?

If you plan to vote at the polls, just be sure you know where your polling location is and head there between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Election Day. You'll need to provide a photo ID and sign the precinct register, at which point you’ll get your ballot and be directed to a voting booth. If you have any technical questions or run into any problems, the election judges at your polling place should be able to help you.

I have a friend or family member who isn't able to drop off his or her mail-in ballot. Can I do it for them?

Yes, you can. The Montana Legislature did make some changes to ballot collection laws in 2021 related to paid ballot collection, those changes have also been blocked by the Montana Supreme Court.

Who should I vote for?

That’s your call, not ours. We hope the information we present on this guide is helpful as you make that decision for yourself, though.

About this project

This guide was produced by the Montana Free Press newsroom with production and web development by Eric Dietrich, editing by Brad Tyer and Nick Ehli and contributions from Arren Kimbel-Sannit, Mara Silvers, Alex Sakariassen, Amanda Eggert and Stephanie Farmer. Questionnaire responses for legislatiive candidates were collected with help from the Montana League of Women Voters, through the league's Vote 411 program. Contact Eric Dietrich with questions, corrections or suggestions at edietrich@montanafreepress.org.

Montana Free Press is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit, reader-supported news organization serving Montana. MTFP's donor base includes supporters from across Montana's political spectrum, including some Montanans who are candidates in this year's election. MTFP's major donors are listed here and a current list of other supporters is available here. MTFP's news judgments are made entirely independently from donor involvement.

This material is available for republication by other media outlets under Montana Free Press' standard distribution terms.