With Montana's June primary election now less than four months away, voters can expect things to heat up on the campaign trail.
Case in point: Montana's race for governor, where incumbent Democrat Steve Bullock is term-limited after eight years in office.
Two Democrats are vying for their party's nomination: Lt. Gov Mike Cooney and newcomer Whitney Williams, and both are locked in a tight race when it comes to fund raising.
Over the last three months of 2019, the Williams campaign raised $439,000 with donations from 29 states. Nearly three-fourths of her total was from outside Montana, including $107,000 from California and $87,000 from Washington state donors. Her Montana donations totaled $104,000.
While she's a new face, Williams' family ties run deep in Montana politics. Her father, Pat Williams, represented Montana in the U.S. House for more than two decades, and her mom, Carol, is a past chairman of the state Democratic party, along with the honor of the state's first female Senate Majority leader.
So, it's no surprise Whitney has been raking in the cash in her first bid for public office in Montana.
By comparison, Cooney had raised $451,000 by year's end, about 80% from Montana donors. While his donations have come in from 44 states, no other state really stands out. His California donations total $17,000, accounting for 4% of his campaign cash.
Of the $451,000 Cooney has raised so far, he's spent $273,000, and he begins 2020 with $178,500 cash on hand.
For Williams, of her $439,000 total, she's spent $186,000 and starts 2020 with $253,000 cash on hand.
So it appears both Williams and Cooney are well-positioned for the push ahead toward the June 2 primary.
Now, the question is which candidate can create traction with the voters.
The next campaign finance reports are due out March 20.
Both Democratic governor hopefuls will be in Billings at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, to take part in their first debate of the campaign season.
MSU-Billings' Petro Theater is the site for next week's event hosted by the MSU-B College Democrats, and the Yellowstone County Democratic Central Committee.
The 90-minute forum is open to the public.
Here's a breakdown of the financials for each of the candidates:
TOTALS (July-December 2019)
Details/analysis: Most notable for Cooney is the sheer number of donations – 6,183 – but a lot of those are multiple small donations from the same person. And, his money from individuals includes $53K from unidentified donors (those giving less than $35, so they are not identified). He also has donors from 44 states, including Montana.
He has $310K in itemized donations from MT (69% of his overall receipts). If you assume all under-$35 donors are Montanans (and, probably most of them are), then his MT total increases to $363K, or 80% of total).
He lists 3,882 itemized MT donations, averaging about $80 per donation. He also has received $2,400 from PACs.
As for other states, no real concentration. CA has $17K, or just under 4% of total. NY is $5.6K.
TOTALS (Oct-Dec. 2019)
Analysis: She lists only 1,770 itemized donations, so she’s getting bigger donations. Only $104,000 of her itemized total is from Montanans, or 24% of her total receipts. If you assume that her $7.5K in non-itemized small donors are from Montana, then her maximum Montana take is $111,500, or 25%. That’s still her largest take from a single state, but she also received $107,000 from Californians (24% of her total) and $87K from Washington state donors (20% of her total). So, almost half her money has come from those latter two states. She also had nearly $70K from the NYC and DC metro areas. She listed 933 donations from Montanans, averaging $111 per donation. She also had $1,700 from PACs.