HELENA – A trio of Democrats jockeying for top position in a crowded primary field running for Congress released reports Monday showing the race to compile cash for the stretch run remains close.
State Sen. Kim Gillan, of Billings, leads the Democrats with cash on hand, holding about $116,000 as crunch time hits, according to fundraising reports available Monday. The Democrat raised about $67,000 over the past three months.
State Rep. Franke Wilmer, of Bozeman, raised about the same amount in the quarter and holds $90,000 heading into the final two months of primary campaigning.
Political newcomer and businesswoman Diane Smith, of Whitefish, raised $35,000 in the quarter and holds about $68,000. Missoula city councilman Dave Strohmaier raised $28,000 and holds $14,000 heading into the stretch run.
Republican businessman Steve Daines of Bozeman, who has token opposition so far on the Republican side, leads the entire field with more than $700,000 on hand.
The primary election is June 5.
Gillan, who works at Montana State University-Billings, is touting a pragmatic track record of producing results in the Legislature. She is casting herself as the candidate who will best be able to find consensus in Washington, D.C., on tough issues.
“I know working families want a chance to have their voice heard in Congress, instead of special interests.” Gillan said in a news release.
Wilmer, a political science professor at Montana State University, touts her self-made background working tough jobs for 16 years as a single mom before completing an advanced degree. Wilmer said momentum has been building for her candidacy and she believes more Montanans are supporting her.
“They want someone like them, someone who has struggled in their life to get where they are and someone who will go to Congress and put them back to work for us.”
Smith, a former business executive from Washington, D.C., is both courting the party’s base by being outspoken on issues such as gay rights, while arguing she can also appeal to conservative independents in the general election because of her own business background.
Helena lawyer Rob Stutz has shunned fundraising and aimed to build a campaign based on volunteer help. Two other Democrats seeking the seat, Sam Ranks and Jason Ward, have also raised small amounts so far.
U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg vacated the seat to challenge U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, which has shaped up to the top race in the state. Democrats have not held the House seat since 1996.
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