Interest in the Billings mayoral race has grown since architect Randy Hafer was the first to throw his hat in the ring earlier this month. The mayor’s race is wide open because incumbent Mayor Tom Hanel, having served two consecutive terms, can’t run again this year. Last week, Montana Republican Party Chair and State Rep. Jeff Essmann announced that he will run for mayor as well. Billings lawyer Bill Cole, who served on the Planning Board with Essmann years ago, has confirmed to KTVQ.com that he is “leaning strongly” toward a mayoral run.
Two City Council members, besides Mayor Hanel, are term-limited this year—Angela Cimmino in Ward 2 and Rich McFadden in Ward 3. Two, who have served only one term might not run again; Al Swanson of Ward 4 and Shaun Brown in Ward 5. Election filing opens Wednesday.