Candidates Report Fundraising as GOP Governor’s Race Narrows

U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte collected more than $534,000 in a month to begin his second campaign for governor

By Associated Press

HELENA – U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte collected more than $534,000 in a month to begin his second campaign for governor, dwarfing the early fundraising efforts of his two opponents for the Republican nomination, according to campaign finance reports filed Friday.

Gianforte loaned his campaign $50,000 in addition to the $534,573 he raised in June, his report to the state Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices said.

That’s more than five times what Attorney General Tim Fox raised over the last three months and more than 12 times what state Sen. Al Olszewski raised over that same period.

The numbers indicate an expensive race leading up to next June’s primary as the three Republicans compete to be the candidate who tries to win back the seat that has been in Democratic hands since 2005.

Gianforte announced last month that he wouldn’t seek a third term as Montana’s only U.S. congressman, opting instead to jump into the open governor’s race. The technology entrepreneur lost his first bid for the office to incumbent Democrat Steve Bullock in 2016.

Bullock can’t run again because of term limits, and he’s seeking the Democratic nomination for president.

That led to a total of six Republicans filing to run to succeed him, along with three Democrats and a Libertarian.

The Republican field has narrowed since Gianforte entered the race. The day after Gianforte’s announcement, Secretary of State Corey Stapleton switched to the U.S. House race to compete for the Republican nomination against State Auditor Matt Rosendale.

Lesser-known Republican candidates Gary Perry and Peter Ziehli have dropped out of the governor’s race, campaign records showed.

Fox added nearly $109,000 to his campaign coffers between April and July for a total of over $300,000 raised so far this year.

Olszewski, who is making his second straight bid for statewide office after losing the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate last year, reported raising $42,064 since April 2. He also loaned his campaign $100,000 to avoid falling behind his competitors early ahead of next June’s primary election.

Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner and ex-legislator Reilly Neill are the Democrats running to succeed Gov. Steve Bullock, who is in his final term and is running for president.

Schreiner reported raising nearly $33,000 and Neill just $320. Cooney announced his candidacy earlier this week, after the filing deadline.

Ron Vandevender, who is running for governor as a Libertarian, reported raising no money.

In other statewide races:

— ATTORNEY GENERAL: Republican Deputy Attorney General Jon Bennion raised over $33,175 last quarter and has over $94,000 in the bank in his bid to succeed his boss, Fox. The other Republican running, former House Speaker Austin Knudsen, has raised $60,565 since mid-May.

Democrat Raph Graybill, who is Bullock’s legal counsel, said he raised over $85,000 for the quarter. The other Democrat in the race, state Rep. Kim Dudik, loaned her campaign $85,000 and raised over $15,000 more.

— STATE AUDITOR: Democratic state Rep. Shane Morigeau raised $12,150 in June. Republican businessman Troy Downing joined the race just a few days before the filing deadline and reported no fundraising in that period.

—SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION: Incumbent Republican Elsie Arntzen raised $934 in June for her re-election campaign, and loaned herself $10,000. Arntzen could face Democrat Melissa Romano again in November 2020 after defeating Romano in 2016.

—SECRETARY OF STATE: State Senate President Scott Sales reported raising $31,577 since March to run for the Republican nomination for the open seat. State Sen. Bryce Bennett is the Democrat running.

— SUPREME COURT: Attorney Michael Black loaned his campaign $5,000 as he runs for the seat being vacated by Justice Laurie McKinnon. Black is the only candidate to register for the nonpartisan race so far.