HELENA, Mont. — Mike Fellows, the state Libertarian Party chairman who was making his eighth run for Montana’s U.S. House seat, died in a car crash, authorities said Tuesday.
Fellows, 59, was in a head-on collision with another vehicle on Montana Highway 200 Monday night as he was returning home to Missoula after a campaign event in Seeley Lake, Missoula County Undersheriff Jason Johnson said in a statement.
Fellows, who has run unsuccessfully for a statewide office every election since 1998, was a long-shot candidate again this year against the Republican incumbent, U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, and Democrat Denise Juneau. Fellows has been involved with Montana’s Libertarian Party since 1982 and has been its state chairman for at least 20 years, said David Merrick, the chairman of the Ravalli County Libertarian Party.
“The Libertarian Party was mostly his life,” Merrick said. “Mike kept us on the ballot. He’s the one who made sure that somebody runs, and if nobody does, he will.”
Fellows had been in poor health because of problems with his kidneys, Merrick said. His health had prevented him from participating in two debates, and Merrick said he urged Fellows not to attend the Seeley Lake event.
It is unclear whether his health issues were a factor in Monday night’s crash.
Fellows’ car apparently crossed the highway’s center line and struck a vehicle headed in the opposite direction, the Missoulian reported. Fellows was pronounced dead at the scene, and a person in the other vehicle was taken to a hospital for undisclosed injuries, Johnson said.
Fellows was the only U.S. House candidate to appear at the Seeley Lake candidate’s forum. Juneau and Zinke released a joint statement offering condolences for Fellows’ family.
“Mike was a true advocate for the Libertarian cause and a good man. He had an incredible passion for his platform and he will be missed in Montana,” Zinke said.
Juneau said Fellows will be missed.
“I have always admired his courage and dedication to serving Montana,” she said.
Fellows was a freelance producer who did work for public television in Missoula. He was also active in Missoula’s American Legion chapter, Merrick said.
He was single and a graduate of Havre High School. He received an associate’s degree from the College of Great Falls before earning a bachelor’s degree in radio and television from the University of Montana.
Besides his eight campaigns for U.S. House, Fellows ran for secretary of state in 2000 and Montana Supreme Court clerk in 2012. He advocated for less government intrusion and the elimination of the income tax. In past debates, he said that both major parties had been compromised by big money and that partisan bickering threatened the economy.
Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch said the Libertarian Party has until the end of Monday to name a replacement candidate for the U.S. House race.
Merrick said the party will convene an emergency meeting to discuss a possible replacement.