BY MIKE DENNISON
(KPAX) In the 2020 races for state office besides governor, many candidates are choosing to use their own pocketbook to finance substantial parts of their campaign – and most of those candidates are Republicans.
Of the dozen-plus candidates who filed their latest campaign-finance reports Monday, 10 made personal contributions totaling at least 20 percent of their campaign fund, or, in most cases, a lot bigger percentage.
Six of those candidates are Republicans; three are non-partisan candidates running for the Montana Supreme Court and one is a Democrat.
These candidates are among the hopefuls running for every statewide office besides governor: The Supreme Court, attorney general, secretary of state, auditor and superintendent of public instruction.
For example, the two Republicans running for state auditor – Troy Downing of Big Sky and Nelly Nicol of Billings – have put $60,000 and $62,000, respectively, into their campaigns so far. That’s about 70 percent of the money raised by Downing and 80 percent of Nicol’s funding.
The Democrat in that race, Shane Morigeau, has raised his $52,500 almost entirely from donors. But, he’s also spent most of that money, finishing the year with just $2,000 in his campaign account.
The only Democrat who’s invested substantially in her own campaign is attorney general candidate Kim Dudik, who loaned herself $85,000. That’s half of the total $171,000 she raised through December, but her report said she has used other campaign funds to pay back $50,000 of that money.
Here’s a closer look at the fundraising status of the 2020 statewide offices, besides governor:
Attorney general: Two Republicans and two Democrats are competing for this open seat. Democrat Raph Graybill, the chief counsel for Gov. Steve Bullock, leads all fundraisers here with $179,000 – and had $152,000 still in his account on Dec. 31. Dudik ended the period with $42,000.
Republican Jon Bennion, the state’s chief deputy attorney general, has raised $168,000 and had $142,000 remaining as of Dec. 31. Republican Austin Knudsen, the Roosevelt County attorney and former speaker of the Montana House, has taken in $114,000 and had $96,000 remaining. Both have put a few thousand dollars of their own money into the race.
Secretary of State: Four Republicans and one Democrat are competing for this open seat. The only Democrat, state Sen. Bryce Bennett of Missoula, has raised a respectable $104,000 and had $73,500 still in his account last month. He’s put $3,500 of his own money into the campaign.
Republicans Christi Jacobsen, the current chief of staff for Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, and Scott Sales, the Montana Senate president, lead all fundraisers here, with about $113,000 each. Jacobsen has loaned her campaign $60,600 and Sales has put $26,000 of his own money into his effort.
Republican Forrest Mandeville, a state representative from Columbus, had raised $25,500, including a $15,000 loan from himself, and state Supreme Court Clerk Bowen Greenwood raised $11,500.
Auditor: Republicans Downing and Nicol have raised $85,500 and $72,000, respectively.
Superintendent of Public Instruction. Incumbent Republican Elsie Arntzen is being challenged by Democrat Melissa Romano, who lost to Arntzen in a close race in 2016.
Romano leads in the money chase, raising $40,000 through December, including $350 of her own money. Arntzen had raised about $23,000, including $10,000 from her own pocket.
Supreme Court: Justice Laurie McKinnon is being challenged by attorneys Mike Black of Helena and Mars Scott of Missoula.
Black, who started his campaign last spring after McKinnon said she wouldn’t run for re-election, raised $74,500 through December – including $40,000 from his own pocket, or 53 percent of his total funds. Most of his donations are from fellow attorneys.
McKinnon decided in November to run, and initially has entirely self-financed her campaign, with $3,400 as of Dec. 31.
Scott also has largely self-financed his campaign so far, with $7,500 out of his total $8,000 in campaign funds.