Can John Lewis Break Democrats’ Losing Streak in Montana?

Posted October 11, 2013 at 4:00am

While Democrats have controlled both Montana Senate seats since Jon Tester’s initial victory in 2006, and the party has had no trouble winning the governorship, the state’s at-large House district has been much more elusive. John Lewis hopes to break the streak.

No, it’s not that John Lewis you’re thinking of.

This one is a 35-year-old Democrat who spent a dozen years working for Democratic Sen. Max Baucus. Baucus is retiring next year and the state’s lone House representative, Republican Steve Daines, is expected to run to succeed him. Meanwhile, Lewis is the lone Democrat in the race to replace Daines. His journey won’t be easy.

Democrats haven’t won a House race in Montana since 1994 when incumbent Rep. Pat Williams won re-election with 48.7 percent. The seat has been open three times in the past two decades (1996, 2000 and 2012). Republicans won each of those contests but with 52 percent twice and 53 percent last year.

Since Daines hasn’t officially announced his intentions, the Republican field is still developing. But state Sen. Matt Rosendale, state Rep. Champ Edmunds and former state Sen. Corey Stapleton are expected to run.

Recent history is working against Lewis. But he should have no trouble raising money and putting together a quality field operation from his connections to former Baucus aides, including Jim Messina. Lewis should be taken seriously.

Montana’s at-large district is now rated Republican Favored (from Safe Republican) according to Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.