Bozeman Businessman Won’t Run for Governor

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – Bozeman businessman Steve Daines, who started a group and a Web site demanding that lawmakers return more of the budget surplus to taxpayers, said he will not be a Republican candidate for governor in 2008.

Daines said a number of people encouraged him to run, but he declined.

“The biggest reason is I’m a daddy to four children” between the ages of 10 and 17, Daines said. “I’m not going to miss these years of my kids’ lives. There will be another time sometime.”

The Montana Republican Party still does not have an announced candidate to challenge Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who is seeking re-election next year.

State Republican Party Chairman Erik Iverson said several other people are privately exploring the possibility, but are not ready to make any announcements.

“Steve would have made an excellent candidate, and I hope he continues to stay involved in the party,” Iverson said.

Last spring, Daines financed a Web site called www.GiveItBack.com that called on Montanans to urge their legislators and Schweitzer to return more of the state’s $1 billion surplus to taxpayers.

Daines’ group also financed radio and television ads that ran in late April and early May calling on the Legislature and Schweitzer to return half of the surplus to taxpayers. He advocated rebates of $1,000 per household.

The Legislature approved about $200 million in tax reductions, including Schweitzer’s plan to give $400-per-household rebates to Montana residents.

The ads also attacked Schweitzer for making out-of-state political fundraising trips during the closing days of the Legislature.

Jim Farrell, executive director of the Montana Democratic Party, filed a complaint accusing Daines of establishing a “phony front group” promoting a possible gubernatorial campaign. State Political Practices Commissioner Dennis Unsworth rejected the complaint, saying there was no evidence Daines was running for office.

Daines, a top executive at RightNow Technologies, criticized Schweitzer for overseeing the largest increase in state spending “that we’ve ever found on record.”

Schweitzer has responded to similar criticism by saying he recommended spending increases for education, social services and building maintenance because Republicans shortchanged those programs over the past decade or more.

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