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County Republican committee endorses primary challengers to Brockman, Sprunger

by KATE HESTON
Daily Inter Lake | March 20, 2024 12:00 AM

The Flathead County Republican Central Committee has endorsed the primary opponents of two GOP lawmakers seeking reelection to the state Legislature after both opted against participating in the group’s endorsement process.

Among the candidates to earn the central committee’s backing are Shaun Pandina, who is running against Rep. Courtenay Sprunger, R-Kalispell, in House District 7, and Lukas Schubert, who is trying to unseat Rep. Tony Brockman, R-Evergreen, in House District 8.

Pandina, who launched an unsuccessful school board bid in Kalispell last year, describes himself as an entrepreneur on his campaign website. Schubert is a political neophyte, graduating from Glacier High School in 2023. 

“We understand that the real election in Flathead Valley is really in the primary election period, for almost all races in our valley,” said committee Chair Al Olszewski. 

To receive the committee’s backing, candidates were required to submit a completed questionnaire and secure the recommendations of four elected officials, a requirement that neither Sprunger or Brockman fulfilled. 

The two were not alone. The committee endorsed six Republicans for primary elections. The opponents of those six did not seek the group’s support. 

“I will not support something that dilutes the integrity of our party, which is why I chose not to participate,” Sprunger told the Daily Inter Lake this week. 

Sprunger, a freshman legislator during the 2023 Legislative session, passed eight of her nine bills, working alongside Gov. Greg Gianforte to pass legislation regarding fentanyl, infrastructure and education. 

The committee’s endorsement process is “blatantly biased,” she said. 

Brockman, also a freshman legislator in 2023, passed 16 of the 25 bills he carried. He also fought to secure funding for the creation of sidewalks along U.S. 2 in Evergreen. 

“These people want to force me to choose between serving my constituents or serving them … Based on this, I refused to participate in a biased and predetermined process,” Brockman said, echoing Sprunger’s assessment in a statement. 

The Flathead County Republicans created a vetting committee, made up of three active precinct captains and two current or former legislators, to endorse candidates in races that are important locally, Olszewski said. 

The committee is chaired by former Sen. Keith Regier, father of state Rep. Amy Regier and House Speaker Matt Regier. The committee also endorsed Matt Regier for Senate District 5 against political newcomer Marquis Laude. 

Keith Regier individually contributed $400 to Pandina’s campaign on March 1. He contributed $400 to Schubert on Dec. 11, 2023, according to the Campaign Electronic Reporting System. 

The Flathead County Republican Central Committee also contributed $1,000 to Pandina on March 15. 

“When members of the vetting committee donate to candidates months ahead of the vetting process and others on the vetting committee are related to candidates… it's obvious the process is blatantly biased,” Sprunger said. 

The vetting process began in January after the first initial wave of filings, but Regier sent the questionnaire out to others as they continued to file. He donated to Pandina and Schubert, he said, because “they are the best candidate for the position.” 

He also pointed out that the vetting committee — which he chairs — only recommends to the central committee who to endorse. The central committee then took the recommendations and made the official endorsements themselves. 

Among the questions that Regier asked Republican candidates to answer include: when does human life begin, what are your thoughts on "transgenderism," how do you view the death penalty, what changes would you like to see in the Republican platform, what are your thoughts on man-caused climate change, among others. 

For the Flathead County Republican Central Committee, the endorsements went to the candidates most likely to vote as a “conservative Republican,” reflecting the will of the people of the valley, Regier said. 

“To be unanimously endorsed by these guys, I think it shows that I am the true conservative,” Schubert said this week. 

Pandina did not respond for comment. 

“The choice is simple. I choose the people of Montana House District 7 ahead of the party bullies, this time and every time,” Sprunger said. 

The Montana primary election will take place on June 4.

Reporter Kate Heston can be reached at kheston@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4459. 


    Rep. Courtenay Sprunger, R-Kalispell, speaks at a bill signing ceremony at the Flathead County Courthouse on June 9, 2023. (Kate Heston/Daily Inter Lake)
 
 
    Rep. Tony Brockman is seen at the Montana State Capitol in Jan. 2023. (Kate Heston/Daily Inter Lake)