United States Senate election in Montana, 2006

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United States Senate election in Montana, 2006

← 2000 November 7, 2006 2012 →

  Jon Tester, official 110th Congress photo.jpg Conrad Burns official portrait.jpg
Nominee Jon Tester Conrad Burns
Party Democratic Republican
Popular vote 199,845 196,283
Percentage 49.2% 48.3%

County results

U.S. Senator before election

Conrad Burns

Elected U.S. Senator

Jon Tester

The 2006 United States Senate election in Montana was held November 7, 2006. The filing deadline was March 23; the primary was held June 6. Incumbent Republican Conrad Burns was running for re-election to a fourth term, but was defeated by Democrat Jon Tester by a margin of 0.87%, or 3,562 votes out of 406,505 votes.


Burns was first elected as a United States Senator from Montana in 1988, when he defeated Democratic incumbent John Melcher in a close race, 51% to 48%. Burns was re-elected 62.4% to 37.6%, over Jack Mudd in the Republican Revolution year of 1994. In 2000, Burns faced the well-financed Brian Schweitzer whom he beat 50.6% to 47.2%.

In 2000, George W. Bush carried Montana 58% to 33% in the race for President, but Burns won by 3.4%. Since the direct election of Senators began in 1913, Burns is only the second Republican Montana has elected to the U.S. Senate. Also, for thirty-two straight years, 1952 to 1984, Montana elected only Democratic Senators.

Burns' involvement in the Jack Abramoff scandal made him vulnerable[citation needed]. A SurveyUSA poll released in March 2006 found that 38% of Montanans approved of him, while 52% disapproved of him.[1] Polls against leading Democratic candidates had him below his challengers[citation needed].

Democratic primary[edit]



On May 31, 2006, Richards, citing the closeness of the race, and his own position (third) in the polls, withdrew from the race, and threw his support to Tester.[2] Morrison started off strong in the race for the Democratic nomination for Senator, collecting $1.05 million as of the start of 2006, including $409,241 in the last three months of 2005.[3] but Morrison’s advantages in fundraising and name identification did not translate into a lead in the polls.[4] Later, the race was called a "deadlock,"[5] but Tester continued to gather momentum.


Democratic primary results[6]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Jon Tester 65,757 60.77
Democratic John Morrison 38,394 35.48
Democratic Paul Richards 1,636 1.51
Democratic Robert Candee 1,471 1.36
Democratic Kenneth Marcure 940 0.87
Total votes 108,198 100.00

Republican primary[edit]



Republican primary results[6]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Conrad Burns (Incumbent) 70,434 72.26
Republican Bob Keenan 21,754 22.32
Republican Bob Kelleher 4,082 4.19
Republican Daniel Loyd Neste Huffman 1,203 1.23
Total votes 97,473 100.00

General election[edit]



The race was expected to be close, due to Burns' previous narrow winning margins and recent political scandal involving him personally; Republican incumbents everywhere were facing more challenging races in 2006 due to the waning popularity of Congress and the leadership of President George W. Bush. In July 2006, the Rasmussen report viewed Burns as the "second most vulnerable Senator seeking re-election this year (Pennsylvania’s Rick Santorum was still the most vulnerable)."[7]

Senator Conrad Burns of Montana faced a strong challenge from Brian Schweitzer in 2000, being re-elected by 3.4% in a state that went for Bush twice by margins of over 20%[citation needed]. This, combined with the increasing strength of the state Democratic party[citation needed] and accusations of ethical issues related to the Jack Abramoff scandal[citation needed], made this a highly competitive race.

On July 27, Burns was forced to apologize after he confronted out of state firefighters who were preparing to leave Montana after helping contain a summer forest fire and directly questioned their competence and skill; Burns was strongly criticized.[8]

On August 31, in a letter faxed to the office of Montana governor Brian Schweitzer, Burns urged the governor, a Democrat, to declare a fire state of emergency and activate the Montana Army National Guard for firefighting. Schweitzer had already declared such a state of emergency on July 11 — thus, activating the Montana Army National Guard. He issued a second declaration on August 11. A Burns spokesman said the senator was "pretty sure" Schweitzer had already issued such a disaster declaration, but just wanted to make sure. "The genesis of the letter was just to make sure that all the bases were covered," Pendleton said. "This is not a political football. It’s just a cover-the-bases letter and certainly casts no aspersions on the governor."[9]



Source Date Tester (D) Burns (R) Jones (L)
Mason Dixon May 2005 26% 50%
Rasmussen September 8, 2005 38% 51%
Mason Dixon December 24, 2005 35% 49%
Rasmussen January 11, 2006 45% 45%
Rasmussen February 13, 2006 46% 46%
Rasmussen March 20, 2006 46% 43%
Rasmussen April 15, 2006 44% 47%
Ayres McHenry & Associates (R) May 2, 2006 48% 42%
Rasmussen May 16, 2006 48% 44%
Mason Dixon May 28, 2006 45% 42%
Lake Research (D) June 20–26, 2006 43% 42%
Rasmussen July 11, 2006 50% 43%
Rasmussen August 10, 2006 47% 47%
Lake Research (D) August 10, 2006 44% 37%
Gallup September 5, 2006 48% 45%
Rasmussen September 13, 2006 52% 43%
Rasmussen September 20, 2006 50% 43%
Mason-Dixon October 1, 2006 47% 40% 3%
Reuters/Zogby October 5, 2006 46% 42%
Rasmussen October 11, 2006 49% 42%
Rasmussen October 18, 2006 48% 46%
Montana State University-Billings October 19, 2006 46% 35%
Mason-Dixon/McClatchy-MSNBC October 24, 2006 46% 43%
Harstad Strategic (D) October 25, 2006 48% 42%
Rasmussen October 29, 2006 51% 47%
Reuters/Zogby October 31, 2006 47% 46% 2%
Mason-Dixon/MSNBC-McClatchy November 3, 2006 47% 47% 1%
Rasmussen November 3, 2006 50% 46%
USA Today/Gallup November 4, 2006 50% 41%
OnPoint Polling and Research November 6, 2006 49% 44%


United States Senate election in Montana, 2006[10]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Jon Tester 199,845 49.16% +1.92%
Republican Conrad Burns (incumbent) 196,283 48.29% -2.27%
Libertarian Stan Jones 10,377 2.55%
Majority 3,562 0.88% -2.44%
Turnout 406,505
Democratic gain from Republican Swing

Due to errors with polling machines the Montana count was delayed well into Wednesday November 8. The race was too close to call throughout the night and many pundits predicted the need for a recount. After a very close election, on November 9, incumbent Conrad Burns conceded defeat.[11]

Just before 11:00 AM (MST) on November 8, Jon Tester was declared Senator-elect for Montana in USA Today.[12] At 2:27 PM EST on November 8, CNN projected that Jon Tester would win the race.[13]

Under Montana law, if the margin of defeat is more than 0.25% but less than 0.5%, the losing candidate can request a recount if they pay for it themselves.[14] However, this election did not qualify for a recount because the margin was larger than 0.5%. Burns conceded the race on November 9, and congratulated Tester on his victory.[15]

The race was the closest Senate election of 2006 in terms of absolute vote difference[citation needed]; the closest race by percentage difference was the Virginia senate election[citation needed].


External links[edit]