Schweitzer, Still Unopposed, Has Raised $750,000

By Beacon Staff

HELENA, Mont. (AP) _ Gov. Brian Schweitzer, so far unopposed for re-election, continues to sock away campaign money in case a challenger steps forward.

Schweitzer reported raising $175,000 this quarter, for a total of more than $750,000 this election cycle. The Democrat reported having $452,320 in the bank.

A Republican who stepped into the race would start in a big campaign fundraising hole. The GOP remained undaunted, and said a Republican candidate could catch up.

“We are real comfortable that whoever is the Republican candidate is going to compete and win,” said Chris Wilcox, executive director of the Montana Republican Party.

Wilcox pointed out that Schweitzer’s quarterly total has dropped from the $310,000 brought in during the first quarter of the year and the $196,152 raised in the second quarter. He said it could be a sign of weakness.

“They are grasping for straws,” countered Harper Lawson, Democratic party spokesman. “The last time I checked, the Republican candidate for governor had zero contributions.”

Schweitzer touted achievements that he and Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger have made during his first term, such as the $400-per-homeowner tax rebates.

“These are the results that John and I have delivered for our state, and folks all across Montana are seeing the progress,” Schweitzer said in a release Friday.

The governor said 84 percent of the campaign’s 5,430 contributions came from Montanans. The average donation was $141.

A number of the largest donations, however, come from out-of-state donors in states ranging from New York to Tennessee to California. Executives with companies such as Corrections Corporation of America, which runs a private prison in Montana, and United Healthcare were among the donors giving the maximum $500 allowed by Montana campaign finance law.

Schweitzer, a Democrat, has vowed he will not take money from political action committees.

Schweitzer raised nearly $1.5 million when he first won election in 2004 over Republican Bob Brown. Brown collected almost $1.2 million.

Other candidates for statewide offices also reported campaign finances Friday.

Mike McGrath, currently the state’s attorney general and running to be Montana Supreme Court chief justice, led among filings available Friday afternoon for other statewide office candidates by raising $59,065 in the quarter. He reported having $49,203 in the bank.