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State Sen. Bryce Bennett, a Democrat from Missoula, announced Wednesday he’s running in the 2020 election to be secretary of state.

Bennett is the first from his party to announce a bid for the office. He joins Republican state Sen. Scott Sales, a Bozeman Republican who served as Senate president the last two sessions and announced in March he was running for secretary of state.

Republican Secretary of State Corey Stapleton is not termed out from seeking reelection, but is running for governor in 2020.

"I’m running because I want every Montanan to have confidence their voice will be heard and their vote will be counted on election day,” Bennett said Tuesday.

Bennett has served four terms in the state House and moved to the Senate in 2019. He is a nonprofit director in Missoula.

Bennett said he also wants to make sure businesses have a say in how the Secretary of State's Office functions to ensure easy access to services.

During his time in the Legislature, Bennett has brought several bills related to voting and voter access in Montana, including one that became law in the 2017 session that allows a person who hasn't changed their address to stay on an absentee ballot list without having to keep confirming their address for subsequent elections.

"I think that in the Legislature I've been able to bring a number of bills that have made our democracy more accessible, more secure and more transparent for the people of Montana," Bennett said.

Bennett also highlighted work he did to help pass the Disclose Act in 2015, which strengthened campaign finance laws in Montana, and said he wants to continue that work if he's elected.

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"I'm running to make sure our elections are always secure and accountable to the people of Montana, not dark money or out-of-state special interests," Bennett said.

Bennett said Montanans should have a strong trust in the state's elections, but that there's "always room for improvement."

"I want to work with the Legislature, with county clerks, with voters in Montana, to make sure every voice is heard," Bennett said.

Bennett, 34, is a fifth-generation Montanan who was born in Billings and grew up in Hysham. He graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in communications studies and lives in Missoula.

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State Bureau reporter for The Independent Record.

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