Bukacek wins tight PSC race by 74 votes

By just 74 votes, Ann Bukacek appears to be the winner in a four-way Republican primary for Montana Public Service Commission, representing the Flathead region and Lewis and Clark County.

A physician best known as a long-time leader in Montana anti-abortion politics, Bukacek was a surprise entrant in the District 5 race for the PSC, which regulates monopolies, more specifically the state’s largest utilities NorthWestern Energy and MDU. In that capacity, the PSC affects the household budgets of more than 400,000 Montana utility customers. Those customers are legally recognized as “captive,” meaning they lack the free-market choice of shopping around for a better deal.

The commission is charged with assuring captive customers have reasonably priced, reliable electric and natural gas service, while assuring utilities receive a fixed rate of return.

Early Wednesday, The Montana Secretary of State flagged for possible recount the vote in PSC District 5. Bukacek’s closest challenger, legislator Derek Skees, has five days to request a recount, as his margin of defeat is less than one quarter of one percent of the total votes cast. Opponent Joe Dooling, of Helena, trailed by 713 votes.

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