Republican Greg Gianforte is still in the midst of exploring a possible run to be the next Governor of Montana. Even though he hasn’t officially declared that he is in the race, his exploratory campaign posted some big numbers in their first financial report.

"We filed about eight weeks ago, as an exploratory campaign," Gianforte said. "Honestly, as we've traveled around the state and visited with people, even though this is my first time in politics, there's a lot of support for getting more business experience in Helena. We had one of the best fundraising periods that any statewide candidate has ever had in the first six weeks."

Gianforte’s campaign reported that they had raised a little over $255,000 in their first six weeks. The Associated Press released a campaign finance report on Sunday (see transcript below), but had to issue a correction after they over-calculated the amount incumbent Governor Steve Bullock had raised since July by over $309,000. Their new report places Bullock’s fund raising at $286,261 putting the candidates nearly neck and neck for the quarter. Gianforte said ultimately, the voters will have to decide.

"Ultimately Montanans are going to make the decision who they want to have as governor," Gianforte said. "Our proposition is pretty simple. Montana is 49th in the country in wages. We've shown in Gallatin County that we can create high-wage jobs in Montana. We'd like to work with all Montanans to create better opportunities so young people can make their way here in Montana and not have to leave to find a better paying job. It's a pretty simple proposition."

A total of five people have filed to potentially run for governor. When asked if he expected his early lead to help in a primary, Gianforte said, "it is important demonstrate support early, because it shows a candidate has momentum."



HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Candidates and people exploring campaigns for statewide office in 2016 have filed their financial reports for the three-month period from July 1 through Sept. 30. Four positions — secretary of state, auditor, superintendent of public instruction and a Supreme Court justice seat — are open races, while Gov.  Steve Bullock and Attorney General Tim Fox are seeking re-election.



Democrat Bullock raised $595,729 for the quarter and spent $105,465, leaving him with $776,525 in the bank when combined with the cash carried over from earlier reporting periods. Republican Greg Gianforte, who formed an exploratory committee in August but has not declared his candidacy, raised $255,349 and spent $71,644, leaving him with $183,795.35.


Five other people also have filed paperwork as candidate or possible candidates, but none reported raising any money for the quarter. Ron Vandevender donated $300 to his own campaign.



Republican Fox doesn't have a primary or general election opponent yet, but that hasn't stopped him from raising $62,923 for the quarter. He hasn't had to spend much, just $2,822 over the three months, and he has $95,202 in the bank.



With Linda McCulloch leaving the office, two Montana political veterans are vying for the open seat. State Auditor Monica Lindeen, a Democrat, raised $12,535 for the quarter and spent $581, leaving her with $38,188 in the bank. Former state Sen. Corey Stapleton, a Republican, just filed for office in September. Since then, he has raised $11,470 and spent $64.



The agency's general counsel, Democrat Jesse Laslovich, is seeking to move into his boss Lindeen's position. For the quarter, Laslovich raised $95,069 and spent $4,665, leaving him with $111,883 in the bank. Former state legislator Champ Edmunds, a Republican, raised $1,900 and spent $1,602 for the quarter. He has $961.89 cash on hand.



Denise Juneau's departure leaves Democrats to defend her seat. Republican state Sen. Elsie Arntzen raised $22,910 and spent $5,791 for the quarter, leaving her with $22,871 when combined with previous cash carried over. Democrat Melissa Romano-Lehman has $11,795 in the bank after raising $9,806 and spending $6,183 for the quarter.



Two seats are up for election in 2016, but only one is contested at this point. District Judge Dirk Sandefur raised $45,433 and spent $1,774 over the three-month period, leaving him with $133,544 in the bank. Kristen Juras has $22,308 cash on hand after raising $11,260 and spending $6,292 for the quarter. Justice James Shea is seeking voter approval after Bullock appointed him to replace Brian Morris, who accepted an appointment as a federal judge.