Third-party candidates are on the rise in Montana. But, will it matter?

To hear Gary Buchanan tell it, “there’s an eight-lane highway down the middle of Montana politics.” It is the space left behind by the major political parties steering to the opposing guardrails of the political spectrum.

Buchanan, a career financial adviser and long-time public servant, is one of several candidates hoping to occupy the center lanes in Montana’s newly created Eastern U.S. House District. You could say he’s hitching a ride. The candidate is scrambling to gather voter signatures ahead of a May 31 deadline for non-party candidates qualifying for the November ballot.

There’s a question about whether this opening lane in the political asphalt really exists, or is merely a heat mirage. Voters like Bob Brown believe it’s real because they’re occupying it. Libertarians also think it’s real, said Sid Daoud, the Montana Libertarian Party chairman.

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This political space might best be defined by what it isn’t, Brown said, which is his truth. Eighteen years ago, Brown was the Montana Republican Party’s candidate for governor. Voters preferring Republican candidates had also twice elected Brown Montana’s secretary of state, and before that elected him to the Legislature for 22

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