HELENA –Former congressman Rick Hill is leading Republican gubernatorial candidates in fundraising, while Democratic Attorney General Steve Bullock is keeping pace without yet saying whether he’ll actually run for the state’s top job.
Candidates filed their campaign finance reports for the last three months with the state Commissioner for Political Practices with less than a year before the June 5 primaries to decide the party nominations for governor.
The biggest question hanging in the gubernatorial race is whether Bullock will enter the race or run for re-election. Bullock was returning from a family fishing trip and unavailable to comment Tuesday, but he doesn’t plan to announce his intentions until after Labor Day, spokesman Kevin O’Brien said.
That hasn’t stopped Bullock from raking in approximately $92,000 for the quarter, leaving him with $196,438 in cash, according to O’Brien.
That’s about even with Hill, who reported raising $87,872 over the last three months, leaving him with $197,634 in the bank. Hill said the amount he has raised this far ahead of the 2012 elections shows the support his campaign had garnered.
“If people are willing to back the campaign with their resources, it reflects their confidence in the campaign,” he said.
Hill, who served two terms in Congress in the late 1990s, is likely the best known name among the Republican field that also includes former state senators Ken Miller of Laurel and Corey Stapleton of Billings, along with security consultant Neil Livingstone.
Miller, who reported raising $23,869 and has $30,180 in the bank, said the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
“He is the established candidate that tracks the lobbyists’ early money,” Miller said of Hill. “But one, we don’t need as much money because we have the large grassroots support, and two, we’re confident we’ll raise the amount needed to be successful.”
Stapleton reported raising $50,408 — $40,000 of which he loaned his campaign himself — and has $32,106 left in the bank. Livingstone’s report was not available.
Choteau county commissioner Jim O’Hara, who is also running as a Republican, reported raising $3,837 and has $10,357 in the bank.
For the Democrats, state Sen. Dave Wanzenried of Missoula reported raising $13,816 for the quarter and has $18,790 in cash. He and state Sen. Larry Jent of Bozeman are the only two announced Democratic candidates for governor.
Jent’s report was not available Tuesday.
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