Montana U.S. Senate candidates continue to raise millions ahead of primary

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Posted at 8:00 PM, May 27, 2024

HELENA — With Montana’s primary election just over a week away, we’re getting one final look at how much candidates have raised and spent – and several million more dollars that have come into the state’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race since the last reporting deadline.

The Federal Election Commission requires candidates running for U.S. Senate or House to file a campaign finance report 12 days before the primary election in their state. In Montana, that report covers the period from April 1 to May 15.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester reported raising another $4.1 million over that period. His campaign spent even more – just under $5 million – but still had almost $11.8 million in the bank. Overall, Tester has brought in $32.8 million and spent $23.9 million since the start of 2023.

Republican challenger Tim Sheehy, a businessman and Navy veteran from Gallatin County, reported bringing in $2.1 million in the pre-primary period, including $600,000 of his own money he’s loaned to the campaign. Sheehy spent $1.8 million during the period, leaving him with $2.2 million in cash on hand. His campaign has raised a total of $10.5 million since last June – including more than $2 million in personal funds – and spent $8.3 million.

Sheehy continues to raise and spend by far the most of the three candidates in the GOP primary – and the other two have criticized the role of money in the election. Brad Johnson, former Montana secretary of state and Public Service Commission member, reported raising and spending just over $4,000 during the pre-primary period. He’s raised a total of just under $43,000 during his campaign.

Charles Walking Child, a 2022 U.S. House candidate from Helena, has pledged to spend a total of less than $5,000 during the campaign – the minimum threshold that requires a candidate to file fundraising reports.

Michael Hummert, of Helena, who’s challenging Tester in the Democratic primary, also hasn’t reported spending more than the threshold.

Of course, the candidates’ own spending is only half the story, as Montana has also already seen significant expenditures from independent groups.

As of Monday, the FEC website reported more than $6 million in independent expenditures supporting Sheehy, including $5 million from the group More Jobs, Less Government and just under $1 million from Americans for Prosperity Action and its affiliated organizations. The FEC has also tracked more than $212,000 in independent spending opposing Sheehy – though that doesn’t include the group Last Best Place PAC, which has reported estimated spending of more than $4.5 million against him.

The FEC also reports AFP Action has spent $570,000 against Tester, and groups like the American Police and Troopers Coalition PAC have spent a total of more than $28,000 in support of him. In addition, More Jobs, Less Government reported another $1.5 million in advertising against Tester earlier this month.

More Jobs, Less Government also reported a direct mail expenditure of just over $22,000, opposing Robert Barb, one of two candidates running in the Green Party’s Senate primary.