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Schweitzer wins Montana governorship

State projected to have first Democratic governor in 20 years

Brian Schweitzer has never held elected office, but did run for the U.S. Senate in 2000.
Gov: MT Updated: 5:33 p.m. ET
Schweitzer 50%
Brown 46%
100% precincts reporting
Election Results Main Page

(CNN) -- Democrat Brian Schweitzer will defeat Republican Bob Brown for the open governor's seat in Montana, becoming the first Democratic governor in that state in 20 years, CNN projects.

The governorship was left vacant when Republican incumbent Judy Martz, the state's first female chief executive, declined to run for re-election following a rocky term, one marred by budget problems and an approval rating that fell to near the 20 percent mark.

Despite Martz's woes, Schweitzer still faced an uphill struggle to take the governor's mansion in a state that gave President Bush almost 60 percent of the vote in 2000.

Schweitzer, a wealthy rancher had never held elected office, but he had run an impressive campaign for the Senate in 2000, earning 47 percent against Republican incumbent Conrad Burns. Schweitzer proved an effective campaigner and earned statewide name recognition as a result of his Senate bid.

In a move that surprised many Montana Democrats, Schweitzer -- who said he wanted to end the partisanship that had divided the state legislature -- selected Republican state Sen. John Bohlinger as his running mate.

Brown, Montana's secretary of state and a former state legislator, was faced with trying to keep the governorship in Republican hands. In the Republican primary, he defeated Pat Davison, a former member of the state Board of Regents, who had been endorsed by Martz.

As in many gubernatorial races, the economy and budget emerged as leading issues in the state.

Brown compared government waste to the marbling of fat in beef: "When you're looking for fat in government, you don't find big chunks of fat." On tax policy, he said that the Democratic approach hampers business growth and job creation.

Schweitzer claimed that current tax laws gave unfair breaks to large corporations. He said that it was possible to bring light manufacturing industries to Montana, where they would be closer to the natural resources needed for their businesses. In another plan, Schweitzer proposed giving $1,000 each month to a state government employee who came up with a good cost-saving idea.

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