Gianforte to Announce GOP Bid for Montana Governor

High-tech entrepreneur plans to stop in Kalispell for Wednesday's announcement

By Tristan Scott

HELENA — After months of being coy about his political intentions, wealthy high-tech entrepreneur Greg Gianforte will be barnstorming the state over the next two days to announce whether he will seek to oust Gov. Steve Bullock, the Democratic incumbent.

The Bozeman Republican will make his first stop at the Peterbilt warehouse in Billings on Wednesday morning, then head to Sidney, Lewistown and Kalispell. On Thursday, Gianforte will head west to Great Falls before going to the state capital and Missoula. He will close his two-day announcement in Bozeman.

Gianforte’s possible gubernatorial bid, which has long been expected, would be his first foray into running for public office. In August, he assembled a committee to explore a possible run.

“He has made a decision,” Gianforte spokesman Ron Catlett said Tuesday. “He felt this was the right time to make an announcement.”

But Catlett declined to say what that announcement will be.

“He took some time in the fall to really think about it,” Catlett said, adding that Gianforte based his decision on conversations with voters across the state. “He’s met with hundreds and hundreds of Montanans.”

Gianforte is widely regarded as the leading Republican contender, mainly because of his considerable wealth — which gives him ready access to money needed to finance a campaign. He raised more than $315,000 over the last three months of 2015 and had more than $332,000 on hand, according to his campaign finance reports.

Four years ago, Gianforte sold his software company, RightNow Technologies, to Oracle for $1.8 billion. According to federal and income tax records he released to The Associated Press, he made $220.5 million between 2005 and 2014.

Last fall, fellow Republican Brad Johnson, who served as Montana’s secretary of state from 2005-2009, announced his bid to challenge Bullock, but has thus far raised scant money. Johnson was elected to the Public Service Commission in 2014.

Bullock does not yet have a primary challenger.

Democrats have already begun portraying Gianforte as out of touch with Montanans.

“Under Gov. Bullock’s leadership, unemployment is down, income growth is up and our budget is balanced,” Jason Pitt, the communications director for the Montana Democratic Party, said in an email. “So why is out-of-touch New Jersey multimillionaire Greg Gianforte really running? Gianforte wants to impose his out-of-the-mainstream agenda to benefit himself and people like him while ignoring Montana values.”

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