Tester, Daines Have Fundraising Leads

By Beacon Staff

In Montana’s U.S. Senate race, a Democrat is proving to be the fundraising juggernaut, while in the state’s U.S. House race the campaign finance edge goes to a Republican, in a very big way.

Steve Daines, a Bozeman businessman running as a Republican for Montana’s lone U.S. House seat, has reported raising nearly $1 million overall, more than all of his Democratic opponents combined and more than any House candidate in Montana history at this point in the race.

Daines is seeking the seat vacated by Republican Denny Rehberg, who is running against incumbent Democrat Jon Tester in the U.S. Senate race. House and Senate candidates filed their most recent campaign finance reports on Jan. 31.

Rehberg reported raising $656,000 in the final quarter of 2011 to bring his total campaign bank account up to nearly $2.1 million. Tester’s campaign reported raising almost twice as much money – about $1.2 million – as Rehberg in the final three months of 2011, giving the senator a total of $3.8 million in his bank account.

Tester is seeking his second term as senator. Rehberg is serving his sixth term as Montana’s only congressman.

State Sen. Kim Gillan, a workforce development coordinator at Montana State University Billings, leads all Democratic House candidates in fundraising with $176,160 in total receipts through Dec. 31, followed by Bozeman Rep. Franke Wilmer, a political science professor at Montana State University. Wilmer’s campaign has raised $162,278 total.

Diane Smith, an entrepreneur from Whitefish, may prove to be a formidable fundraising force for the Democrats as the race moves forward. Smith announced her candidacy in November and by the end of December had already raised $100,033, more than any other Democrat in the final quarter of 2011. Gillan’s campaign brought in $52,015 in the last quarter and Wilmer raised $55,261.

The other two Democrats who filed reports on Jan. 31 were Dave Strohmaier, a Missoula city councilor and historian, and Helena attorney Rob Stutz. Strohmaier reported raising $23,084 in the final quarter of 2011 to lift his campaign total to $72,163. Stutz raised $3,265 in the quarter to bring his total earnings up to $13,315.

Gillan has the most cash on hand of all the Democrats with $100,088 left in the bank as of Dec. 31. Smith reported having $75,508 in her bank account followed by Wilmer with $54,060. As of Dec. 31, Strohmaier had $15,160 and Stutz had $5,680.

Daines has reported raising $954,645 total, which “eclipses that of any prior candidate for Montana’s lone House seat at this point in the cycle,” according to a statement by his campaign. Lee Newspapers reports that the previous record was held by Democrat Nancy Keenan, who had collected $531,000 by the end of 1999. Keenan went on to lose to Rehberg.

As of Dec. 31, Daines had $630,561 in the bank. He reported raising $173,673 in the last quarter. Daines initially announced in 2009 his intention to run for Tester’s Senate seat but switched over to the House race after Rehberg announced last February that he would be challenging Tester.