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Three candidates file for election to Cascade County Commission

Posted at 5:45 PM, Mar 11, 2024

The candidate filing period for state and local races wrapped up on Monday. Cascade County will feature a hotly contested race for Cascade County Commission in District 3.

Rae Grulkowski, the republican incumbent, filed for re-election last Tuesday. Grulkowski, tells MTN she has been widely involved with Cascade County Disaster and Emergency Services and working on the Incident Command System in her year holding the office. She was elected in November of 2022 beating out the lone Democrat who filed for candidacy in early January.

Commissioner Grulkowski is proud of her community for getting more involved in local government.

"I did set a goal to bring more transparency to our government," said Grulkowski, adding, " there are more people attending our meetings which I am very pleased with. I continue to encourage people to participate in our government.”

The lone challenger in the District 3 Republican Primary, which will be held on June 4th, is former appointed Great Falls City Commissioner Eric Hinebauch.

Hinebauch is coming off a November 2023 loss for retaining his former City Commission seat.

"We’ve all seen it growth is here, it’s happening, and we need to make sure we keep our eye on the ball and start planning correctly in Cascade County and being prepared for that," explained Hinebauch.

Ryan and Hinebauch are both aligned on addressing the growth Cascade County will see with the Malmstrom AFB Sentinnel project on the horizon. Former County Commissioner Ryan says that factoring in the affordable housing crisis and the shortfalls in first responding agencies will address the growth concerns.

Hinebauch added, "...it takes long term thinking."

The District 3 Commission seat was in the limelight in 2023 with Commissioner Grulkowski's removal of the title of "Chair." It received much public outcry when a proposed resolution was brought to the table by Commissioner Jim Larson.

In the latter half of 2023, Commissioner Joe Briggs proposed a resolution to remove election duties from Cascade County Clerk and Recorder. Grulkowski, is a known ally to Merchant and was the lone opposition to the other Commissioner's plight in election operations. The resolution welcomed much public outcry, including nearly eight hours of public comment.'

“I wasn’t there for the decisions that were made in the past six months," explained Hinebauch. "They have a new election administrator in place, we need to work with her, and we need to work on building that community trust back into that office and make sure it’s good moving forward.”

“If I get back on the Commission, there will be two republicans and one democrat. We’ll make sure that every employee who is hired in the Elections Department is hired by the Commission. We’ll have to make sure its non-partisan. People have to know that their elections are safe," added Don Ryan.

Grulkowski told MTN she still doesn't agree with the boards decision to remove election duties from Merchant. She has advocated for the board calling meetings to the public that offer more discussion than being blind-sided at its bi-weekly meetings. Still, despite her push back toward the Commission, her fate is in the hands of voters.

“If I am supposed to be here. I will be here. The people will keep me here and God is going to influence that as well. I am all about getting this community in alignment with what the people want."

The primary election is schedule for June 4th.