Associated Press Montana News Summary
Sunday, October 7th 2012
MONTANA SENATE

Montana senator holds on despite Obama drag

HELENA, Mont. (AP) Democratic Sen. Jon Tester is hanging on in a brutal Montana re-election battle despite a big drag caused by President Barack Obama.

Republican congressman Denny Rehberg has been unable to pull ahead of the first-term senator even though Obama is poised to lose big in Montana, a vast, sparsely populated, libertarian-minded state.

Both candidates preach their independent credentials as outside spending bombards TV viewers with an unprecedented wave of attack ads nearly $12 million worth so far. Most of the ads are against Rehberg and underwritten by unions and Democratic-aligned groups.

The Senate race remains one of the half-dozen or so pure toss-ups that will determine whether Democrats continue to control the Senate or Republicans take it over.

MINISTER-CAMPAIGN LAWS

Minister wins lawsuit over signature gathering

(Information from: Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) The state has acknowledged that a century old law limiting the speech of clergy regarding candidates and ballot issues is unconstitutional.

The Billings Gazette reports U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull approved a settlement Tuesday in the case of a Billings minister who sued the state after being arrested on trespassing charges while gathering signatures for a ballot measure seeking to amend the state's constitution to define unborn children as persons.

Calvin Zastrow, a minister for the Assemblies of God, was arrested after he refused to leave a location near MetraPark commonly used to gather petition signatures. The charges were dropped.

County officials did not allege that Zastrow violated the 1913 undue voter influence law, but his lawsuit sought to prevent the state from threatening to enforce it.

PRISON PURCHASE?

Montana county mulls buying vacant prison

(Information in the following story is from: Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

HARDIN, Mont. (AP) A Montana county is considering buying a prison vacant since it was built in 2007 for $7 million, a quarter its construction price five years ago.

The only thing is, the Billings Gazette reports the prison's owner doesn't know much about the proposed deal.

Big Horn County Commission Chairman Chad Fenner has been floating an informal proposal to have his county buy the long-vacant detention facility in Hardin.

But Jeffrey McDowell, director of prison-owner Two Rivers Authority, had this to say: He had no direct information regarding discussions between the county and bondholders who financed the project.

In addition, other Big Horn County commissioners are more skeptical about the purchase.

For instance, County Commissioner John Pretty On Top says the county needs a jail, but not a 460-bed prison.

COUNTY LAND

Montana gives county 9 acres for possible museum

(Information in the following story is from: Independent Record, http://www.helenair.com)

HELENA, Montana (AP) Lewis and Clark County is hoping to turn an eyesore into an asset, now that the state is handing over a nine-acre parcel valued at $640,000 that some residents have lamented for its rusty fences, sagging barbed wire and decrepit, metal-clad buildings.

The Helena Independent-Record reports some aim to turn the Department of Administration-owned site next to the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds into a museum, a records repository or possibly just a parking lot.

With this transfer, County Commissioner Andy Hunthausen says officials want to clean up the site, then plan and work with the fair board and others to try to use the property for the public good.

There's a little challenge in addressing what's described as "minor contamination," but Hunthausen says it can be capped.

DEVIL'S BRIGADE HONORED

US-Canadian fighting group saluted in Congress

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) A joint U.S.-Canadian military outfit that trained in Montana to fight the Germans has been honored this week in Congress.

U.S. senators passed a resolution recognizing members of the Devil's Brigade, which set the path for today's Green Berets and the Navy SEALs.

The Missoulian reports that the brigade was organized and trained at Fort Harrison in Helena in 1942 and saw combat in Italy in 1943.

U.S. Sen. Max Baucus says the men organized in three, 600-man regiments, a service battalion and a small air detachment accomplished feats of bravery on Nazi-occupied soil.

The group didn't last long.

Once 1,800 strong, the outfit was reduced to just 500 men. It was disbanded in 1944 when commando-style units were deemed unnecessary to the war effort.

LOTTERY WINNER

Wolf Point man claims $100K lottery prize

HELENA, Mont. (AP) A Wolf Point man has claimed a $100,000 top prize from the scratch lottery game "$100,000 Montana Black."

Montana Lottery officials say Edward Bauer claimed his winnings Wednesday from a ticket he purchased at Albertson's in Wolf Point.

Bauer says he and his wife play the lottery often.

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