In what was a good night for Montana Republicans overall, three GOP candidates for the House seats in Districts 64, 67 and 68 prevailed by decisive margins Tuesday.
Jedidiah Hinkle, 40, will represent Belgrade in House District 67. Hinkle captured 57 percent of the vote to defeat Democrat Colette Campbell and Libertarian Andrew Schaefer, who received almost 38 percent and 4.5 percent of the votes respectively.
Hinkle’s brother Caleb, who defeated incumbent Bruce Grubbs in Belgrade’s House District 68 in the June primary and campaigned in favor of gun rights and against increased taxes, went on to defeat Democrat Emily Brosten in Belgrade’s House District by a margin of 64 percent to 35 percent.
Republican Jane Gillette prevailed in House District 64, which includes Gallatin Gateway and part of Manhattan. Gillette garnered 51 percent of the vote, compared to 44 percent for Democrat Brian Popiel and almost 5 percent for Libertarian Doug Campbell.
Jedediah Hinkle said he had a good feeling going into the election and believes Belgrade voters agreed with him on big issues and evaluated his character as they cast their ballots.
“I think they could tell who I was – I’m not a political person,” said Hinkle. “I’m one of their neighbors who has a business and lives and works with them in Belgrade.”
Though he rejects the “political” label, the House seat Hinkle will assume in January is not his first. Hinkle served in the Montana Senate as its District 32 representative for four years beginning in 2015.
During the campaign, he pledged to work for property tax reform and said Wednesday he is hopeful that a number of bipartisan bills vetoed by Gov. Steve Bullock will be resurrected now that a Republican will be governor.
Hinkle also credited a general “red wave” for propelling his victory.
“Statewide there was a big push for candidates that support freedom,” he said. “With coronavirus, there’s a lot of gray area there with rights and freedom and people’s liberties and what is the role of government. I think that played into it.”
Hinkle said he had little doubt that his brother Caleb would prevail in Republican-leaning House District 68, but admits he worried a little about his own race.
“By my calculations, $35,000 to $40,000 was spent attacking and distorting my record,” Jed Hinkle said. “You’ve always got to wonder if the voters believe that stuff or trust in who you are.”
On Wednesday morning, Caleb Hinkle agreed with his brother that like other Republican candidates, he benefited from prevailing voter sentiment in Montana.
“It went well for me, as well as for other Republicans,” he said. “It was a clear message. From the national level on down, there’s not a lot of good stuff coming from Democrats lately.”
Asked what issues he hopes to tackle when he arrives in Helena in January, Hinkle – whose experience includes working as a legislative staffer in the statehouse – said he will focus on fiscal, regulatory, Second Amendment and pro-life issues.
“I just want to thank my voters as well as my opponent for running a clean campaign,” he said of Brosten. “She seems like a good person, and I wish her the best in the future.”
In HD 64, Rep.-elect Jane Gillette said Wednesday she was still processing her victory, though she already has turned her attention to how to meet her goals.
“I thought this morning, ‘What’s my first step?’ Honestly, it’s to put together a group of advisors from different districts – experts in agriculture, construction, water law, health, conservation, public lands,” she said. She said there is a tremendous amount of expertise in all policy areas residing in her district, which extends as far south as West Yellowstone.
“I don’t think it will be hard for me to get good answer from the district,” she said.
Gillette, a dentist with 15 years of policy and legislative experience, said she will focus on furthering legislation in her areas of expertise in Helena: health care financing, with a focus on deriving the best outcomes per dollar spent; supporting programs that protect children, particularly those in poverty, by creating opportunities for their parents to earn good wages; and enhancing programs that increase the likelihood of families staying together.
In her work as a consultant, Gillette said, she is accustomed to analyzing problems through a matrix system that identifies cost-benefits of various policies and programs, a tool she hopes to put to use in her legislative work.
Gillette said she believes voters recognized her sincere wish to serve as they cast their votes.
“My advocacy, public health background and business work has always been centered around helping others,” she said. “I think people can see that sincerity.
“I am just so excited and I cannot wait to get to work,” she added.