GOP Primary Candidate Profiles: HD20, Steven Galloway Vs Melissa Nikolakakos

Editors note: All of the local Great Falls/Cascade County legislative and county commission contests in the June 4 primary election are Republican. Here are the profiles submitted by the candidates in House District 20, Steven Galloway and Melissa Nikolakakos, unedited:

Steven Galloway

I am Representative Steven E Galloway currently serving my second term in HD24 and campaigning for HD20.

Appointed to Business and Labor , Local Government,  Vice Chair Energy and Technologies

I was selected and serve as a State Delegate to The Energy Council, PNWER, NCSL,ALEC and others. I attend as many conferences as possible to gain knowledge and insight from other legislators and experts on subjects from around the country and the world to better represent you. I have zoomed in with The Council on Foreign Relations, The White House Intergovernmental Affairs and other organizations. I have had weeklong zooms with international contributors on issues. I participate on think tanks dealing with licensure, energy, election integrity and workforces decreasing numbers. This is above and beyond my representative’s duties often requiring travel away from home, family and work.

Energy is a very complicated and diverse subject to be involved with and as Vice Chairman I have invested a great amount of time and gained a fair working knowledge of it. We will need to stream line processes to allow prompt development of production and transmission of power to sustain our growing needs. We were an exporter and we now import energy. I passed HB749 Providing for advanced conductor cost-effectiveness criteria to aid our energy needs.

I helped facilitate meetings with local officials prior to last session and continued dialog during session by zoom on Wednesdays at lunch time which benefitted our community.

Almost 50 years ago I started out scrubbing toilets and making beds in my parents motel, I contracted in the construction field for 12 years and we currently operate multiple family run locally owned businesses.

I was born and raised in Great Falls. I am a 3rd generation  Montanan and my grandkids 5th.I am married to my lovely wife of almost 43 years. We have 6 adult children with 15 grandchildren and 1 GREAT grandchild. They  are my motivation to serve, frankly you couldn’t pay me enough to do this job.

I have refereed and coached sports. Served on boards. Served at church as teacher, counselor, auditor, executive secretary, and currently as facilities rep  overseeing  10 church buildings.

I have introduced 43 bills and passed 18 of them into law, Including (2021) session HB-438 for VETERANS and  HB 298 which increased transparency on your property tax assessment.  I have introduced property tax legislation in both sessions that would have helped primary home owners and we will try again. We need to look at a total revision of the property tax code, focusing on the processes of the valuations and assessments.   See them all at Proudly endorsed by Gun Owners of America, NRA, Montana Sports Shooters Association, Montana Family Foundation to name a few. I have also been recognized for my constitutional voting record by  CPAC  with a 94% score and 100% score


Melissa Nikolakakos

Name: Melissa Nikolakakos
Office Sought: House District 20
Occupation: Teacher
Age: 41
Family: Husband (George) Daughters (Story, Reagan, Melody, Abigail)
Education: BA, University of Montana (Education)
Organizational affiliations: Girl Scouts (Unit Service Leader) Raising Readers (Board Member)

As an educator, 4th generation Montanan, mom of four, twenty-year military spouse, and involved community member I pride myself in serving others. I’m running for office to bring common-sense conservative solutions to Helena and create a better community for our kids and families. Born and raised in small-town Montana I want to ensure those time-tested values are at the front and center of our legislative process.

A quality education for our children with deep parental involvement is my passion. I’ve served as a pre-school president, led with the “Raising Readers” Program (since merged by First Lady Susan Gianforte with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library) serve as a Girl Scout Service Unit Leader, and have served countless times as a PTA president. I’m committed to giving back and serving our community and kids and will work tirelessly every day in Helena to that end. 

We face many challenges in today’s political climate. Property taxes, inflation, and out of control housing costs are driving families from their homes and real reform is needed now. Fiscal responsibility and low regulation are the centerpieces to a strong economy, the backbone of a healthy opportunity driven society. This next legislative session we must enact significant property tax reform that offers meaningful relief to primary residence home-owners, bolster career and technical education and the Teach Act, and return a significant portion of the budget surplus to taxpayers.  

There’s much more but the simple fact is that today both political parties are failing our people. It’s time to retire out of touch self-serving politicians and elect every-day Montanans who want to civilly solve problems rather than create constant conflict and chaos. I’m ready to bring real-world experience and Montana values to Helena to do just that. I look forward to visiting and hopefully earning your vote to serve our community to the best of my ability.

June 4 Local Primary Features All GOP Candidates, No Dems

All of the local Great Falls/Cascade County legislative and county commission candidates appearing on the upcoming June 4 primary election ballot will be Republicans.

Today E-City Beat sent an email to all of those candidates requesting a candidate profile and their reasons for seeking office. We will publish their responses without edits or editorial comment

Stay tuned for E-City Beat’s continuing coverage of all local elections, issues, and candidates.

Here is the list of primary election candidates:

Derren Auger
Hannah Trebas

Melissa Nikolakakos
Steven Galloway

Ed Buttrey
James Osterman

George Nikolakakos
James Whitaker

Pete Anderson
Joshua DeNully
Eric Tilleman
John Proud

Josh Kassmier
Lola Galloway

Cascade County Commission
Rae Grulkowski
Eric Hinebauch

Daily Montanan Reports Rina Moore’s Staff Accused In Lawsuit Of Election ‘Maleficence’

Here’s a excerpt from the article written by Daily Montanan reporter Nicole Girten and posted last week.

“Plaintiffs in a case against the Cascade County Elections Office over its handling of a May 2023 election alleged the office knowingly went against state statute – and fault included ousted Clerk and Recorder Rina Moore’s former staff.

According to a court filing submitted Wednesday, Lynn DeRoche, who worked alongside Moore for 16 years and for current Clerk and Recorder Sandra Merchant for about a month last year, gave Merchant faulty advice around procedures for sending out ballots in an irrigation district election.”

You can read the entire article on the Daily Montanan website, here.

Longtime Cascade County election staff accused of maleficence in Irrigation District election • Daily Montanan

Cascade County To Interview Election Administrator Candidates Tuesday

Cascade County Commissioners will conduct interviews on Tuesday with four candidates for election administrator, a newly-created county position. The candidates are Terry Thompson, Nancy Donovan, Lynn DeRoche and Rina Fontana-Moore. Details of the meeting, including a Zoom link, are found at:

Election duties in Cascade County were historically the responsibility of the clerk and recorder, but on December 12 two of the three commissioners, Joe Briggs and Jim Larson, voted to pass Resolution 23-62. Commissioner Rae Grulkowski voted in opposition.

The resolution stripped election duties from that office and from current Clerk and Recorder Sandra Merchant. Merchant took over as clerk and recorder in January 2023 after winning in a close race against Fontana-Moore in November 2022. Fontana-Moore had served as clerk/recorder and election administrator for 16 years. The resolution mentions election-related issues with the current and former clerk and recorder and both Fontana-Moore and Merchant have faced scrutiny and lawsuits during their time in office.

In Montana, the default office to handle election duties is the clerk and recorder. The Montana Code Annotated allows county commissioners to remove election duties from the clerk and recorder and appoint an election administrator. Cascade County joins Yellowstone and a handful of other counties in Montana who have decided to remove election duties from the clerk and recorder, although it appears Cascade County is the only one to do so during someone’s term of office or not at the request of the sitting clerk and recorder.

Resolution 23-62 also appears to seek to restrict Commissioner Rae Grulkowski from voting on election-related decisions, since she is up for re-election this year.

The resolution language states: “…any single Commissioner whose seat appears on the ballot in a given calendar years shall be required to abstain from all decisions concerning the operation and management of the election office during that calendar year until such time as the election for said office is finalized;…”

It is unknown whether Briggs and Larson will cite the resolution as authority to prevent fellow Commissioner Grulkowski from having input into appointing the election administrator.

The upcoming election administrator appointment is the latest chapter in a more than year-long struggle between the left and right political factions in the county. The left, including the Election Protection Committee founded by Fontana Moore’s brother Pete Fontana and former Cascade County Commissioner Jane Weber, have applauded Resolution 23-62. Those on the right feel that Briggs and Larson’s actions have negated the will of voters who elected a combined clerk/ recorder and elections administrator in 2022 and consider the resolution egregious government overreach

Petition To Repeal County Commission Resolution To Remove Election Duties

Editors note: the following is a press release from Jeni Dodd.

Sign the Petition for Referendum to Repeal Resolution 23-62!

Cascade County Commissioners Briggs and Larson passed the resolution to remove election duties from the Clerk/Recorder, thereby negating the will of the voters who voted for a combined Clerk/Recorder AND ELECTION ADMINISTRATOR in November 2022.

Petition available to sign at Liberty Hall, 721 10th Ave S. (across 8th St S from Arbys).

Sun 1/21 10 am to ? Closing
Mon 1/22 10 am to 6:30 pm
Tue 1/23 9 am to 4 pm
Wed 1/24 10 am to 3 pm
Thu 1/25 9 am to ? Closing
Fri 1/26 10 am to 3 pm
Sat 1/27 10 am to ? Closing
Sun 1/28 10 am to ? Closing

Please pass along. Questions? Contact Jeni Dodd,


Opinion by Jeni Dodd

At the December 15 Cascade County Commissioner special meeting, we learned the latest Banana Republic move by the commission — one that should be memorialized in county history as ‘Bucketgate’.

The special meeting’s agenda revolved around the commission’s previous 2-1 decision to pass Resolution 23-62 on December 13. That resolution removed election duties from Clerk and Recorder Sandra Merchant, who took office in January 2023, and allows the commission to appoint a non-elected elections administration of their liking. Commissioners Joe Briggs and Jim Larson voted in favor, Commissioner Rae Grulkowski against.

Briggs, aka wannabe lord of the Cascade County fiefdom, spearheaded the change to an appointed elections administrator, which he touts as less partisan. Yes, but timing is everything and this change came less than a month before candidate registration opens on January 11 for the June 2024 primary.

Briggs claims he’d been considering idea of an appointed election administrator for some time, but it seems evident that he doubled down on making the change only after Rina Fontana-Moore was ousted from the Clerk/Recorder/election administration position. If she had she won again, I opine there would still be a Clerk and Recorder with election duties.

But back to the special commission meeting and more relevantly, the aforementioned bucket. In a discussion that could be paraphrased as — “we stripped election duties from the clerk and recorder and now we have no plan” — we learned that a county maintenance worker removed a bucket of keys from the elections office. The bucket contained the keys to Expo Park where the voting tabulator machine is stored, and now, there’s no accounting for the keys.

Yep, you read that right. A voting tabulator machine that should be secured under lock and key at all times may not be secure. The keys have been unaccounted for, for days. So how can we be sure the machine hasn’t been, or won’t be, tampered with unless we inspect the machine and immediately change the locks?

Grulkowski raised the question about the keys, asking Briggs and Larson to identify who gave the directive to the maintenance department to take the bucket from the county election office.

“Something that did just land on my ears that is of concern is that there was a directive that the keys be taken from the elections office. I think the intent was to get keys from our former election administrator but they took a bucket of keys including keys for the security of the tabulator machine and I have no idea where they were and I did not know that directive was given. That was by our maintenance department so can I ask, who gave that directive? I was unaware of that,” Grulkowski stated.

Neither fessed up. Larson mumbled something not giving any direction other than asking for keys from the clerk and recorder.

Commissioner Grulkowski went on to state that an email was sent to the recently deposed election administrator (but still Clerk and Recorder) to turn in her keys to the elections office so she had left them at that office. But Grulkowski related that someone from maintenance went to the elections office and asked for all the keys.

“So they [elections office staff] gave them the bucket of keys that they had been trying to pick from whenever they needed something because that’s how it was left for them. There weren’t designated keys…and in there [the bucket] were the keys to ExpoPark, which houses our tabulator machine.”

So the current elections staff doesn’t have access to the tabulator machine and it appears unknown who might have access, now or in the future. Chain of custody for government property appears lax in the fiefdom.

The county maintenance supervisor later joined in on Zoom and stated he had told the maintenance worker only to collect the keys for the election office and the election storage. He claimed he had no idea why the maintenance worker would take the bucket of keys.

We also learned that not only did the county strip election duties from duly elected Clerk and Recorder Merchant, she was asked to give up key/keycard access to the County Annex building.

“I just don’t see where we would do that with any elected official,” said Grulkowski.

Although Briggs and Larson agreed the Clerk and Recorder should continue to have such access to the County Annex, it just seems like it could be yet another Banana Republic move. Why would anyone with the county move to restrict an elected official’s access to a building where much of the county’s business is conducted?

Grulkowski asked about the directive for this action, to which Briggs claimed that “it was nothing that was discussed in my presence; to go to that extreme” Hmm, “to that extreme.” Hmm, “discussed in my presence.”

In past opinion pieces, I’ve called those “wiggle words.” I think you get my drift.

Grulkowski also stated that maintenance staff have keys to the room where live ballots are stored. What? Wait, what? Why would they have access? In case of any emergency? No dice — get election staff to let you in, accompanied of course, or break the door down if need be — but keep our ballots secure. It was yet another mind-blowing revelation.

So how long have these Banana Republic antics been going on? This didn’t start in January. It appears to me it’s “the way we’ve always done it” mentality. Long-standing, questionably ethical and maybe questionably legal, policy decisions which newbies Merchant and Grulkowski didn’t get the memo on. Yep, the fiefdom which has been the status quo for Cascade County for many years — now being revealed in part by a bucket of keys to the kingdom.


Despite opposition that significantly outpaced support during six hours of public testimony, Cascade County Commissioners Joe Briggs and Jim Larson still voted to strip election duties from the Clerk and Recorders Office. Commissioner Rae Grulkowski was the lone no vote on Resolution 23-62, which passed 2-1.

The proposed action didn’t sit well with the majority of speakers at Tuesday’s Cascade County Commission meeting, which was moved Exposition Hall in Expo Park in anticipation of a big crowd wanting to speak on the controversial resolution.

With the resolution’s passage, Cascade County will become another of the handful of Montana counties which have an appointed rather than elected, election administrator. Montana Code Annotated §13-1-301 allocates election duties to the county clerk and recorder, “unless the governing body of the county designates another official or appoints an election administrator.”

The governing body, Cascade County Commissioners, took advantage of this statue in the MCA to propose the resolution removing election duties from the clerk/recorder.

Comments against the resolution included concerns about the financial impacts of adding the new county position of election administrator, lack of cooperation from previous Clerk/Recorder/Elections Administrator Rina Fontana-Moore, her staff and commissioners in the handoff of election duties to Merchant, allegations of hostility and harassment of Merchant by supporters of Fontana-Moore and assertions that Merchant ran the Election Office according to the law while the previous clerk/recorder did not.

However, most resolution opponents expressed one common theme — removal of the election duties from Merchant would disenfranchise the majority of voters who elected her and would negate the will of the people, since the position they voted on was a combined clerk/recorder/election administrator, not just a clerk/recorder.

Supporters of the resolution focused mainly on alleged mistakes made by Merchant, including anomalies in a flood district election which led to a lawsuit. However, County Attorney Josh Racki stated at the beginning of the meeting that his department investigated various claims against Merchant and found no illegalities in Merchant’s actions related to elections.

Former Clerk/Recorder/Election Administrator Fontana-Moore also faced a lawsuit brought by a resident in a flood district in 2020, 13 years after she took office. The judge ordered a new election as it was found Fontana-Moore had sent ballots to all residents of the flood district and not just the landowners, as required by law.

Merchant faced demands to resign beginning early in her term when former County Commissioner Jane Weber; Pete Fontana, brother of former Clerk/Recorder/Election Administrator Rina Fontana-Moore; and local activist Jasmine Taylor formed the Election Protection Committee.

The committee actively solicited on Facebook for citizens to report any election anomalies directly to them and not the county elections office, and also submitted a complaint to the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, who determined it was unsubstantiated.

Today’s county commission action comes on the heels of another recent controversial decision that changed the way the county commission chair position is filled. Commissioners Briggs and Larson voted to change from a 2-year rotation of commissioners serving as chair, to a chair selected by commissioners each year.

Commissioner Grulkowski, current chair, voted against the change.

Grulkowski became chair of the commission in 2023, after winning against Don Ryan in the November 2022 election. Ryan had been appointed in early 2021 to fill in for retiring Commissioner Jane Weber until the next general election. State law then required Ryan run again in 2022 to keep the seat through 2024, the remainder of Weber’s term.

Grulkowski’s win over Ryan in 2022 for commissioner also put her in the chair position due to rotation. Until the change voted in by Commissioners Briggs and Larson, Grulkowski was originally slated to remain chair through 2024.

Who Goes Down For The Count, Voters Or Commissioners

Professional wrestling returns to Great Falls, with the top card match beginning Tuesday at 9:30 AM December 12 in the EXPO Park arena.

The tag team match pits the Mayhem Boys against the team of Saint Joans of Arc in an epic struggle to determine who runs the Cascade County Elections office. It looks to be a down-for-the-count exciting event of which we have not seen in quite a few years.

What makes this contest unique is that a team of two men, Briggs and Larson, will be going tooth and nail against a team of two women, Merchant and Grulkowski. At this point we do not know who will be doing the announcing, but it should be worth the price of admission for sure.

Fans of both teams are lining up to provide plenty of hoots and hollers.

Backing the Boys are the Great Falls School District, the local Democratic Party, and Election Protection Committee. The Saint Joans are backed by over 14,000 voters and the vast majority of Republicans.

There will be no pre match before the main event, so get there early. At this point we do not know if beer and corn nuts will be available.

Briggs Wants Change In Election Supervisor, Shelter In Place At MANG, And More

Our regular feature highlighting a few of the latest and most interesting local and national news items from various sources.

Cascade County Commissioner Joe Briggs to offer resolution to remove election responsibilities from Clerk & Recorder Sandra Merchant, from the Montana Sentinel:
Two Cascade County Commissioners Are Hoping To Steal Your Vote On Dec 12th – Montana Sentinel

MANG shelter in place after phone threat, from NonStop Local FOX:

Teens arrested on assault charges, victim suffered significant injuries, from MTPR:
One charged, four arrested after assault on Missoula minor | Montana Public Radio (

Letters To The Editor: Briggs And Larson Criticized

Editors note: the opinions expressed in “Letters to the Editor” do not necessarily reflect the opinions of E-City Beat, our volunteer staff, or contributors. All letters to the editor are welcome and will be considered for publication. Please include your name and city of residence to

Good morning,

I strongly oppose County Ordinance 23-01 because this Ordinance improperly serves only the personal agenda of Commissioners Briggs and Larson. It does NOTHING to serve the interests of the residents of Cascade County.

I have no doubt that this Ordinance was proposed in bad faith only to “punish” Commissioner Grulkowski for the outstanding performance of her duties (both as a Commissioner and as Chair of the Commission), despite the obvious and increasing hostility expressed toward her by her Co-Commissioners and their self-serving supporters (and donors?). It is clear that she is doing her best to make the Commissioners (herself included) more accountable to We the Pepole. Apparently, Commissioners Briggs and Larson do not believe they should be held accountable to ANYONE outside of their Chambers.

This Ordinance is nothing more than an invalid and thinly veiled attempt to prevent Commissioner Grulkowski from doing her DUTY as Chair of the Commission to ensure that the Commission performs its duties LAWFULLY and TRANSPARENTLY. 

As a resident and elector and of Cascade County, I believe that Commissioners Briggs and Larson are (at the very least) in breach of the public trust by their deliberate undermining of Commissioner Grulkowski in their attempt to remove her from her chairmanship, apparently BECAUSE she insists that the Commission conduct the business of Cascade County lawfully, transparently, and in the best interests of their constituents. Judging from the recent Canvass, Commissioners Briggs and Larson view Montana law as an UNWELCOME inconvenience that neither is willing to read, much less FOLLOW.

I urge you to retain Chairman Grulkowski for another year and vote NO on Ordinance 23-01.


Dena Burnham Johnson
Great Falls, MT 59404


Dear News Media,

I am alerting you this morning to the injustice and manipulative tactics of County Commissioner Joe Briggs and County Commissioner Jim Larson in their attempts to silence newly elected County Commissioner, Rae Grulkowski!  These  men are trying to silence Rae Grulkowski’s input and influence by removing her from her current position as Chair!  Their excuse is a false accusation of Rae’s ability to conduct meetings properly.  Rae has had many years of experience in conducting meetings as she is a local business owner and has been involved in conducting many business meetings.  I, personally, have sat in County Commissioner meetings and have witnessed her level headed ability to conduct their meetings properly.

In the past, there was an automatic rotation procedure that was an equal and fair representation of all three County  Commissioners.  Rae has stepped into a position that currently has the privilege of being the chair.  These two other Commissioners have lost their control and are attempting to regain their domination of the current procedure that is taking place right now.  This needs to be stopped! 

Joe Briggs has been in his position for 19 years!  We need new blood and fresh ideas to come into Cascade County!

Rae needs to have the freedom and liberty to conduct her Chair duties  without harassment from disgruntled “old guard” County Commissioners.

I am trusting you to get this very important information out to the people of Cascade County.  Thank you!

Sharon Thompson,
Great Falls, MT  59404