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Tester-Rehberg race Montana's top story of 2012

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 25, 2012 at 1:39 pm •  Published: December 25, 2012

5. MONTANA WILDFIRES: Montana had its worst fire season since 1910, with more than 1.3 million acres burned and 463 homes and structures destroyed. The Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation was hit particularly hard by back-to-back fires, leaving tribal members short on resources and struggling to recover.

6. OIL BOOM: The Bakken oil boom in western North Dakota and eastern Montana brought new jobs and boosted the economy in the region, but communities also felt the strain of the rapid growth. Housing shortages prevailed while local law enforcement braced for an uptick in crime with the population increase.

7. MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Voters in November upheld stringent medical marijuana restrictions passed by the state Legislature in 2011. The law requires proof of a medical condition to qualify as a user, adds oversight to doctors who recommend the drug and bans pot providers from compensation. The restrictions on providers were temporarily suspended while a legal challenge is heard by a Helena judge.

8. GOVERNOR RACE: Attorney General Steve Bullock defeated former U.S. Rep. Rick Hill in November to succeed Gov. Brian Schweitzer and keep the governor's office in the hands of Democrats. The Democrat defeated the Republican with 49 percent of the votes compared to Hill's 47 percent, with Libertarian Ron Vandevender pulling in 4 percent.

9 (tie). INDIAN MONEY: A $3.4 billion settlement between the U.S. government and hundreds of thousands of Native Americans is finalized after the U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear appeals. The settlement ends a lawsuit started nearly 17 years ago by Blackfeet tribal leader Elouise Cobell of Browning, who demanded an accounting for more than a century's worth of mismanaged royalties from lands held in trust by the government

REPUBLICAN FLOP: Republicans falter in capturing 2012's biggest electoral prizes, despite GOP optimism that backlash against President Barack Obama would help them take back a U.S. Senate seat and win the governor's office. Democrats instead won the Senate and governor races, plus four of the five statewide Land Board seats, while Republicans maintained control of the Legislature.