HELENA — Three weeks after officially launching his campaign to become chief justice of the Montana Supreme Court, former State Auditor John Morrison is dropping out of the race and endorsing another candidate.
In a statement on his campaign Facebook page, Morrison said former federal magistrate judge Jerry Lynch shared his commitment to defending the Montana Constitution and the state judicial branch.
“I do not want to waste resources or create divisions that could undermine our shared commitment to uphold Constitutional freedoms, Court access, and the Rule of Law in this critical time,” Morrison said. “I am afraid that continuing this campaign in the months ahead could potentially do that.”
Morrison, an attorney from Helena, was twice elected Montana’s state auditor, as a Democrat. In his statement, he said he met Lynch at a recent event and was impressed by his ability to articulate the values they shared. He urged his supporters to contribute what they can to Lynch’s campaign.
“As for me, I will continue as a lawyer to fight to protect the independence and integrity of our Courts and Constitution and to seek Justice for the people of our state and country,” Morrison said.
Lynch thanked Morrison in a statement.
“Protecting the integrity, independence and impartiality of Montana's judicial branch and the Montana Supreme Court is my top priority,” he said. “My campaign is earning support from people throughout the State of Montana from all walks of life and professions because I am focused on protecting our Constitution, not partisan politics or a personal agenda. I welcome the support of John Morrison and that of all Montanans who care about the future of our great state.”
The chief justice position will be open in the 2024 election, as incumbent Mike McGrath is not running for another term. While Lynch is the only declared candidate for the seat so far, it’s likely more will join the race.
One associate justice position is also open next year, as Justice Dirk Sandefur will not be seeking reelection. State district judges Dan Wilson and Katherine Bidegaray have announced plans to run for that seat.