HELENA – U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., continues to pile up the campaign money, surpassing the $1 million mark through September – but has yet to say what office he’ll be seeking next year.
Daines, elected as Montana’s only House member just 11 months ago, finished the third quarter of this year with $1.14 million in his campaign account – officially his re-election fund for the 2014 U.S. House race.
Daines is considering a run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated next year by retiring Democrat Max Baucus. Most Republican Party sources in Montana say they expect Daines will run for the Senate.
Ever since Baucus made his surprising announcement in April that he wouldn’t run for re-election, Daines has set a torrid fundraising pace.
He raised nearly $642,000 the past three months, according to reports that will be filed Tuesday, and has taken in almost $1.1 million the past six months and $1.3 million for the year so far.
He has been relatively frugal on the expenditure side, spending only $187,000 through the first nine months of this year, leaving him the $1.14 million.
While Daines hasn’t said whether he’s running for the U.S. Senate next year, at least four other people already are in the race and others are considering it.
Democratic Lt. Gov. John Walsh announced Oct. 3 that he’s running for the Baucus seat, and another Democrat, rancher and attorney Dirk Adams of Wilsall, got into the race during the summer.
Republican David Leaser, an air traffic manager and political unknown from Kalispell, announced late last month that he’s running. State Rep. Champ Edmunds, a Missoula Republican, remains a declared candidate for the U.S. Senate seat, but has said he expects Daines to run and, if that happens, he’ll run for Daines’ current House seat.
Republican Larry Williams, an author and commodities trader now living in the U.S. Virgin Islands who twice ran for the Senate in Montana decades ago, said recently he will seek the Senate seat, but will drop out if Daines runs.
Also, former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger said Monday he’s still “testing the waters” to see what support he may have if he gets into the race as a Democrat.
Adams, Walsh, Leaser and Williams are required to file campaign finance reports on Tuesday if they’ve raised $5,000 or more.
If Daines runs for the U.S. Senate seat, he’ll have a considerable early fundraising edge over his opponents. However, most political observers expect the Montana U.S. Senate race will attract huge amounts of money, from direct supporters of the candidates and from outside groups.
Of the $642,000 that Daines raised in the past three months, about $440,000, or 69 percent, came from individuals. Most of the remainder came from political action committees and party-affiliated groups.