Kavulla close to victory in GOP primary for PSC District 1

As of late Tuesday, Travis Kavulla, the 25-year-old GOP wunderkind and the youngest Public Service Commission candidate in recent memory, had a 10 percentage point lead over state Sen. Jerry Black in the Republican primary race for the PSC District 1 seat.

As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, Kavulla had 55 percent of the vote to Black’s 45 percent, with 79 of 198 precincts reporting.

The latest tally from the Secretary of State’s office can be found here.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press was reporting that Helena attorney Bill Gallagher and former Secretary of State Brad Johnson were in a dead heat in the District 5 PSC Republican primary with 63 of 147 precincts, or 43 percent, reporting.

Johnson, who suspended his campaign last week after being arrested for drunk driving, trailed his opponent with 7,377 votes to Gallagher’s 7,421 votes.

Kavulla, a writer and activist from Great Falls, out-fundraised Black, a two-term state senator from Shelby, nearly 2 to 1.

The winner of Tuesday’s primary will face Democrat Don Ryan, a former state senator from Great Falls, in the Nov. 2 general election.

With 60 percent of the votes still waiting to be tallied late Tuesday, Kavulla was in high spirits and expecting to win the GOP nomination.

“Obviously we’re happy with the turnouts so far. We ran a really strong campaign and I think you’re seeing the fruits of that,” Kavulla said.

With Kavulla carrying a strong lead in Cascade County, Black all but conceded the election Tuesday night.

“I can’t make any prediction of how those remaining votes will come in, but it looks to me like Cascade County is the key and he’s carrying Cascade County very well. I think that’s where the swing voters are,” Black said. “The way he is carrying Cascade County he will probably win the election, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

Officials in large counties such as Fergus and Richland were still counting ballots late Tuesday, but Kavulla led in Choteau, Daniels, Garfield, Judith Basin and Sheridan counties.

Black led in Blaine, Hill, McCone, Petroleum, Roosevelt, Toole, Valley and Wibaux Counties.

“I’m concerned that we have to wait for the Hi-Line counties to come in and Lewistown, but I think it’s going to be hard for my opponent to find the votes to close that gap,” Kavulla said late Tuesday night. “Of course, I could be eating those words tomorrow (Wednesday).”

Black congratulated Kavulla Tuesday on running a strong campaign.

“He worked very hard and that’s what it takes, but we’ll just have to wait until morning to see what happens,” Black said.