NewsMontana Politics


18-year old candidate has his sights set on Montana Senate

His opponent is a 79-year-old political veteran
Elijah Tidswell
Posted at 5:06 PM, Sep 30, 2022

BILLINGS - Every election year comes with interesting candidates, but this year Elijah Tidswell of Billings is planning to make history.

Tidswell is one of the candidates for the Montana Senate in District 24. Tidswell turned 18 in June, which means that if he wins he'll be the youngest person ever elected to a state office in Montana.

"I wouldn't say I'm anxious. I'm excited," Tidswell said. "It's a competitive seat and I'm an unconventional candidate so I'm excited to see if that wears off or not."

Tidswell graduated early from Senior High School last year, which was perfect timing for him to take a gap year between high school and college while spending his time campaigning in Billings.

While he's only 18, Tidswell has always been interested in politics. At 15, he began working for the GOP to help candidates with their elections, but his passion for civics began much earlier when he attended his first rally.

“I went to my first big rally when I was like 12 years old, and ever since then it’s kind of been my passion. Again, not usually one that young kids follow but I just loved it for some reason,” Tidswell said.

Elijah's mother Angie couldn't be more impressed with her son: “I just admire him because I don’t know anything about this stuff, and he’s smart. He pays attention, he listens, he learns, and he’s constant. I think he just lives and breathes it. I mean seriously, his room is full of campaign signs and whatnot.”

Tidswell's opponent has a completely different perspective of life. At 79, Kathy Kelker has been involved in politics for a long time, serving the maximum of four sessions in Montana's House of Representatives. Now she's trying her luck at a Senate seat.

"It is unusual for someone to run at age 79. When I finished the House I thought I was finished. But then, looking at some of the things that really need to get done I decided, ‘Okay I can do it one more time,” Kelker said.

Tidswell said he plans to go to college eventually, but if he wins the seat he'll move to Helena and get to work. His mom just hopes that people hear him out.

“Just talk to him. Don’t just judge him because you see some 18-year-old kid. You’ll find out that he’s knowledgeable and passionate and probably is going to make some changes and a difference,” Angie Tidswell said.

Tidswell said the experience has been challenging, but plenty rewarding, especially for a kid who's loved politics from an early age.

“I think people doubt me a little bit at the beginning just because of my age, but as soon as we start that conversation they realize, ‘Oh, you kind of know a few things,'" Tidswell said.


If you want to listen and learn more about the two candidates and their platforms, watch the interviews below.

Extended Interview: Katharin Kelker

Extended Interview: Elijah Tidswell