Montana voters to choose AG nominees Tuesday

Chris Rizo Jun. 2, 2008, 3:18pm

Lee Bruner (R)

Steve Bullock (D)

Tim Fox (R)

John Parker (D)

Mike Wheat (D)

HELENA, Mont. (Legal Newsline)-Democrats and Republicans in Montana will chose their respective party's nominee for state attorney general Tuesday.

There are three politically experienced Democrats and two Republicans vying for the post held by Attorney General Mike McGrath, who is barred by term limits from seeking election to a third term.

McGrath, a Democrat, is running for chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

Democrats running to succeed McGrath are state House Minority Leader John Parker of Great Falls, Helena attorney Steve Bullock and former Bozeman Sen. Mike Wheat.

A Democrat has been Montana attorney general for the last 16 years. The state Republican Party is hoping that either Butte attorney Lee Bruner or Helena attorney Tim Fox can break the streak.

Fox, 51, is a lawyer in private practice and previously did legal work for Mountain West Bank and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. For about three years in the 1990s, he was the environmental coordinator for the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation.

Bruner, 47, has been in private practice with a Butte law firm since 1995.

In an earlier interview with Legal Newsline, Bruner said he would vigorously defend the state's $250,000 cap on non-economic damages from malpractice awards.

He said the cap has helped keep more doctors from leaving the Treasure State.

"We're not a wealthy state and people don't make a lot of money here ... but one of the things that Montana offers is a pretty good tort reform statute protecting (providers) from the upside of some of the really big damage awards like they see in Florida, the Carolinas and Texas," Bruner said.

Vying for the Democratic AG nomination is Parker, Bullock and Wheat.

Parker, 37, has been a Cascade County deputy attorney since 1999 and a state representative from Great Falls since 2002.

He was chairman of the legislative Law and Justice Interim Committee and was the House Democratic floor leader during the 2007 legislative session. He says his prosecutorial experience will help keep Montanans safe.

Bullock, 42, is in private legal practice. He is known well for directing the 2006 campaign to raise the state minimum wage. He has worked in the attorney general's office as well as in the Montana secretary of state's office.

He says his law practice reflects the values he holds, including protecting consumer rights and union workers.

Wheat, is a 61-year-old, retired private attorney and is a former deputy attorney for Butte-Silver Bow County. He points to his accomplishments in the state Legislature to say his legal and life experience will enable him to "get the job done right" in the attorney general's office.

The Montana attorney general's seat is especially high-profile since the AG is a member of the state Land Board along with the governor, secretary of state, state auditor and state school superintendent.

The panel helps manage 5.2 million acres land held in trust for Montana schools.

Jake Eaton, executive director of the Montana Republican Party, told Legal Newsline that the AG's race is "pivotal" if the GOP is to regain a majority on the Lands Board.

Turnout On Tuesday could be especially high in the Democratic primary since presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are still battling to be at the top of their party's ticket.

The primaries in Montana and South Dakota Tuesday end the 2008 primary season.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at

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