During this primary election season, Carol Williams, the matriarch of Missoula Democrats, finds herself on the sidelinesliterally. She's been watching baseball. Williams termed-out after eight years in the Montana Senate, where she was the first female Senate majority leader, and instead of being in the thick of the action ahead of Tuesday's primary vote, she's been in the Bay Area watching the Giants and Yankees play ball. "It feels really good," she says, though she admits to some nostalgia. "I've enjoyed being in the legislature and I've worked hard, and so now, not having to do that, there is a little bit of a vacuum."
Of course, Williams still has her eye on this year's Democratic primary, which is especially competitive: most Missoula Republican candidates are running unopposed, while many Democrats face stiff competition ahead of the general election.
The race Williams is watching most closely is the one for her Senate seat, in District 46, where Sue Malek, currently representing House District 98, is battling Tyler Gernant, an attorney who two years ago ran for U.S. Congress. Williams says both are running "really good campaigns and are very visible, at least in the Rattlesnake area, where most of the votes are. ... They're doing the doors, they're raising money, they've got lots of good signs up." She says both are well-qualified and deserving. As in Missoula's other competitive races, it's a good problem to have, she says"and a really good sign for Democrats."
Williams is also eyeing Jenifer Gursky's race in HD 98 against David Crowley, because Gursky "had such a good term as president" of the Associated Students of the University of Montana.
But perhaps the most interesting race is in House District 94, where Lou Ann Crowley is challenging one-term incumbent Ellie Hill. These two met two years ago, with Hill winning by only 98 votes. Williams expects it to be close again, in part because some of Hill's colleagues in the legislature are backing Crowley, including Sen. Dave Wanzenried, and Rep. Betsy Hands, who's not running for reelection. "Generally, if you're a member of a delegation, people sort of coalesce and support their colleague," Williams says. "I think it's a little different this time. ... That's unusual, I have to say."