Shaylee Ragar

Shaylee is a UM Journalism School student. She reports and helps produce Montana Evening News on MTPR.

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For the past 30 years, Joe Lamson has been crunching the numbers trying to figure out how Montana could regain the congressional seat it lost after the 1990 census. He says it's something he never thought would happen in his lifetime.

"The growth rates in the other parts of the country were just ... we just could never keep up," says Lamson, a Democrat who was a political staffer and campaign manager and now serves as one of the five members of the state's independent districting commission.

It happens at the beginning of every year: elected officials, legislative staff, lobbyists, journalists and the public gather in large numbers in state capitol buildings around the country for a relentless few weeks — or months — of lawmaking.

In 2020, official business had wrapped in many states by mid-March when lockdowns began. In others, the spread of COVID-19 sent lawmakers home early.

This year in Montana, Republicans swept every statewide and federal race, while also increasing their majority in the statehouse by 10 seats. Montana, once dubbed a purple state for its split-ticket voting, is now deep crimson.

After four terms of a Democratic governor, a Republican will sit in Montana's governor's mansion for the first time in 16 years. Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat who lost his bid for the U.S. Senate this year, was term limited.

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