HELENA — A Bozeman attorney has announced he’s running to challenge Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen.
Ben Alke, a Democrat, officially launched his campaign this week. He said he decided to pursue the position because he believed Knudsen had “politicized” the attorney general’s office.
“I thought it was important to restore the integrity and credibility of the Montana Department of Justice,” he said.
Alke cited several specific actions by Knudsen’s office, including their involvement in a dispute between St. Peter’s Health and a patient’s family over treatment and their intervention in a local prosecution in Lewis and Clark County. He also criticized Knudsen for statements that he described as attacks on the Montana judiciary.
“The broad message is there are certain things that are too important to be political, and we have a decision to make as citizens and Montanans: Do we care more about principles like justice and truth, or do we care more about labels?” Alke said. “Do we want to work together to get things done? Or do we want to call each other names and try to drive each other apart?”
Alke is a native of Helena who now works in Bozeman, as a partner with the law firm Crist, Krogh, Alke & Nord. Before going into private practice, he was a law clerk for former Montana Supreme Court Justice Brian Morris. He told MTN he’s tried a variety of cases for individuals and businesses, but that his specialties have included unfair trade practice and consumer-related issues, as well as public access.
In a release, the Montana Republican Party pushed back against Alke.
“Ben Alke is a millionaire trial attorney with deep ties to the liberal legal establishment that is out of touch with Montanans,” said party chair Don Kaltschmidt. “As Attorney General, Austin Knudsen has been holding criminals accountable, working with local law enforcement to keep Montana communities safe, and fighting back against the disastrous Biden agenda.”
Earlier this month, a formal complaint accused Knudsen of professional misconduct for his handling of a dispute between the Montana Legislature and the state judicial branch. In a statement about that complaint, a spokesperson for Knudsen questioned the timing of the complaint, because it came so close to when they expected Alke’s campaign to launch.
Alke told MTN he had no involvement or connection with the complaint, and that he wasn’t in a position to comment on how that case should turn out.