HELENA — Billings businessman Gary Buchanan needs about 1,000 more scribbled signatures and he will be on the November ballot as an independent candidate for Montana’s new eastern congressional district.
Buchanan isn’t affiliated with either of the major political parties and won’t appear on the ballot for the June 7 primary. Instead, Buchanan must submit a petition with the signatures of about 8,700 registered voters from Montana’s second congressional district. The deadline for Buchanan’s petition is May 31, and with about a week left Buchanan was optimistic about his chances.
“Republicans and Democrats in the legislature are not fond of independent candidates,” Buchanan said, in an April interview with MTN News. “And the paperwork and the kinds of things we have to do to collect signatures have turned out to be quite an obstacle.”
As of May 23, county election officials had processed and accepted about 8,100 signatures for Buchanan’s petition. “Gary Buchanan for United States House District 2.” Local election offices do the first signature check to verify the person signing is a registered voter in the district. The Montana Secretary of State’s Office will also review the petition and said certified totals may be less than what the report said.
The number of signatures needed to get on the general election ballot established by Montana law as at least 5% or more of the total votes for the last successful candidate for the same office.
In his career, Buchanan served about half a dozen governors, including Republican Gov. Marc Racicot. Racicot endorsed Buchanan alongside Democrat Dorothy Bradley, who opposed Racicot in Montana’s 1992 gubernatorial election.
“More than anything my career,” Buchanan said. “Whether it’s in business or serving in the public area I’ve been able to communicate and talk to both parties and I can certainly talk now to the fastest growing part of Montana politics, which are independents.”
The partisan bickering is souring people on the major parties, Buchanan said. About 42% of Americans identify as independent, according to an April 2022 Gallup survey However, some analysis shows the unwillingness to identify with a party is more about avoiding stigma.
Rosendale’s “no” vote on a non-binding resolution in support of the people of Ukraine pushed Buchanan to run, he said. Montana’s history is filled with some of the best politicians ever when it comes to international relations.
“I had the ability to spend time in Tokyo with Mike Mansfield,” Buchanan said. “He was ambassador to Japan. And of course when he, when he ran the United States Senate things got done.”
Former U.S. Sen. Mike Mansfield, D-Montana, was first elected to congress as a U.S. representative and later became the longest-serving Senate majority leader, with about 16 years in the role.
Buchanan was the first Director of the Montana Department of Commerce. He led the 1994 reorganization of Montana State Government, which created the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. In recent years, he’s pushed for more public safety funding in Billings and said he believes in funding police.
Healthcare is also a major policy concern for Buchanan. Hospitals are having trouble recruiting, Buchanan said.
“When doctors and healthcare professionals look at Montana right now after the last legislature, I think they’re very concerned about coming here,” Buchanan said. “Security has had to be increased at every hospital in the state and I think the politics against healthcare have inflamed that activity.”
Buchanan’s signature gatherers will work up to the deadline, he said. People can find more information about where to sign on his website, buchananformontana.com.