Gianforte announces run for second term as Montana governor

Greg Gianforte
Posted at 1:48 PM, Jan 16, 2024

HELENA — As he enters his fourth year in office, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte is officially ready to launch his campaign for a second term.

Gianforte, a Republican, told MTN Tuesday he’ll make the case that he delivered on the promises he made to voters when they elected him in 2020.

“We got a lot of work done in the last three years, but there's still more work to be done,” he said. “And if the people of Montana choose to reelect me, we'll have more good-paying jobs while protecting our way of life.”

Gianforte, a former tech-industry entrepreneur from Bozeman, campaigned on his business experience in 2020, and he says his message won’t change in this election. Since becoming governor, he’s prioritized efforts to make Montana a more business-friendly state and cut back what he believes are unnecessary regulations. He touted hundreds of millions of dollars in tax rebates and longer-term tax reductions passed during the 2023 Montana legislative session, as well as efforts to boost teacher pay and increase access to public lands.

“I'm looking forward to getting back on the campaign trail and getting to every county and visiting with folks to hear what's on their minds, so that I can do a good job when I'm reelected into the governor's office,” he said.

Gianforte says he will once again be joined on the ticket by Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras, an attorney from Great Falls. In office, Juras has headed up the administration’s regulation-reform initiative.

“She's done a fabulous job spearheading our Red Tape Relief effort, and I'm very pleased to have her on the ballot with me,” Gianforte said.

Gianforte began his term in 2021 – the second year of the COVID pandemic – and he oversaw the expanded rollout of vaccines and the lifting of COVID-related mandates. His administration has been responsible for the distribution of millions of dollars in federal stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. Last year, he successfully advocated for using a large share of the state’s budget surplus to fund tax rebates. His administration has also launched task forces seeking ways to address housing availability and rising property taxes.

This will be the third consecutive gubernatorial election in which Gianforte has been a candidate. In 2016, he lost narrowly to incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock. He then defeated sitting Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney in 2020. In between, Gianforte was elected to the U.S. House in a special election in 2017, then reelected in 2018.

Gianforte’s campaign told MTN it’s yet to be determined when he will file with the Montana Secretary of State’s Office – the official step to get his name on the ballot. No gubernatorial candidates have filed for the ballot yet, but two have announced plans to run: Democrat Ryan Busse, a former firearms executive and now author and activist from Kalispell, and Republican Tanner Smith, a state representative and business owner from Lakeside.

In 2020, Gianforte put several million dollars of his personal funds into campaigning for governor. MTN asked if he planned to do something similar this time around.

“We've had the ability here over the last couple of days to start reaching out, and I've honestly been overwhelmed with the encouraging support we've been getting from people all over the state, so we'll see how things develop over time,” he said. “But if the people of Montana want me, I'm looking forward to serving them for another four years.”

Busse, who's been sharply critical of Gianforte since launching his campaign, issued a statement to MTN in response to Gianforte's announcement.

“Billionaire Greg Gianforte is just another typical politician who stuck Montanans with a record tax hike so that he could give tax cuts to the wealthy,” Busse said. “But he isn't just out of touch; he's dangerous to Montana. Gianforte wants to make medical decisions for women. He thinks he can buy elections and go on vacations when disasters strike. And unless you have millions, he doesn't give a hoot about you or your rural community, or your public school, or the public land we all own. He's an unrepentant liar and a threat to our democracy.”

Smith also criticized Gianforte, particularly for his administration's handling of adult-use marijuana dispensaries and for not supporting a proposal to call a special session to return more of the state budget surplus to taxpayers.

“Montana won't last four more years with Greg Gianforte as governor,” Smith told MTN.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to include responses from gubernatorial candidates Ryan Busse and Tanner Smith.