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United States Senate election in Montana, 2006

United States Senate election in Montana, 2006

November 7, 2006

Nominee Jon Tester Conrad Burns
Party Democratic Republican
Popular vote 199,845 196,283
Percentage 49.16% 48.29%

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 on June 6. Incumbent Republican U.S. Senator 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.


  • Background 1
  • Democratic primary 2
    • Candidates 2.1
    • Campaign 2.2
    • Results 2.3
  • Republican primary 3
    • Candidates 3.1
    • Results 3.2
  • General election 4
    • Candidates 4.1
    • Campaign 4.2
    • Polling 4.3
    • Results 4.4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


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 so-called 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. 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.

Democratic primary



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%
Totals 108,198 100.00%

Republican primary



Republican primary results[6]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Conrad Burns (inc.) 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%
Totals 97,473 100.00%

General election



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 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%. This, combined with the increasing strength of the state Democratic party and accusations of ethical issues related to the Jack Abramoff scandal, 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. James Pendleton, 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)
OnPoint Polling and Research November 6, 2006 49% 44%
USA Today/Gallup November 4, 2006 50% 41%
Rasmussen November 3, 2006 50% 46%
Mason-Dixon/MSNBC-McClatchy November 3, 2006 47% 47% 1%
Reuters/Zogby October 31, 2006 47% 46% 2%
Rasmussen October 29, 2006 51% 47%
Harstad Strategic (D) October 25, 2006 48% 42%
Mason-Dixon/McClatchy-MSNBC October 24, 2006 46% 43%
Montana State University-Billings October 19, 2006 46% 35%
Rasmussen October 18, 2006 48% 46%
Rasmussen October 11, 2006 49% 42%
Reuters/Zogby October 5, 2006 46% 42%
Mason-Dixon October 1, 2006 47% 40% 3%
Rasmussen September 20, 2006 50% 43%
Rasmussen September 13, 2006 52% 43%
Gallup September 5, 2006 48% 45%
Lake Research (D) August 10, 2006 44% 37%
Rasmussen August 10, 2006 47% 47%
Rasmussen July 11, 2006 50% 43%
Lake Research (D) June 20–26, 2006 43% 42%
Mason Dixon May 28, 2006 45% 42%
Rasmussen May 16, 2006 48% 44%
Ayres McHenry & Associates (R) May 2, 2006 48% 42%
Rasmussen April 15, 2006 44% 47%
Rasmussen March 20, 2006 46% 43%
Rasmussen February 13, 2006 46% 46%
Rasmussen January 11, 2006 45% 45%
Mason Dixon December 24, 2005 35% 49%
Rasmussen September 8, 2005 38% 51%
Mason Dixon May, 2005 26% 50%


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 8 November. 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; the closest race by percentage difference was the Virginia senate election.

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the United States


  1. ^ SurveyUSA News Poll #8541
  2. ^ :: Richards: Tester is best choice
  3. ^ :: Burns' fundraising nears $5 million; Morrison's hits $1 million
  4. ^ Politics Home Page : Roll Call
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^ Rasmussen Reports: The most comprehensive public opinion coverage ever provided for a mid-term election
  8. ^ Conrad Burns Issues Apology for Altercation with Firefighters | Missoula | New West Network
  9. ^
  10. ^ 2006 Election Statistics
  11. ^ "Sen. Burns Concedes Montana Race".  
  12. ^ "Democrat challenger takes Montana". USA Today. November 8, 2006. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  13. ^ CNN . 
  14. ^ 13-16-211. Recounts allowed if bond posted to cover all costs
  15. ^ "Montana's Burns concedes Senate race". USA Today. November 9, 2006. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 

External links

  • Jon Tester's official campaign site
  • Conrad Burns' official campaign site
  • "Montana Senator in Fight of Political Life," Associated Press, October 15, 2006
  • Robert 'Bob' Candee's official campaign site
  • Stan Jones' official campaign site
  • Bob Keenan's official campaign site
  • John Morrison's official campaign site
  • Paul Richards' official campaign site
  • Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee page on this election
Preceded by
Max Baucus
Montana U.S. Senate elections
Succeeded by
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