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HELENA - A key state Senate race in Billings and the Yellowstone Valley is shaping up as the most expensive legislative battle in the state, as the two candidates already have surpassed the $50,000 mark in fundraising.

Sen. Lane Larson, D-Billings, who represents District 22, faces a challenge from Republican Taylor Brown, a well-known radio personality from Huntley.

Republicans believe Brown has a fair chance to defeat Larson in this swing district and are pouring money into Brown's campaign.

Brown reported this week that he had raised $33,100 through last Saturday, from 300 donors from across the state. The amount includes $1,000 of Brown's own money, and he spent another $5,300 of his own funds on campaign signs.

Larson, a union electrician, has proved that he's no fundraising slouch, either. He took in nearly $22,000 during the same period, with more than 200 individual donors, including many fellow Democratic legislators.

Neither man has a primary opponent.

Democrats hold a 26-24 edge in the Senate, and Republicans believe that defeating Larson could help them take control.

Larson won a fairly close race in 2004, helping Democrats sweep to power in the state Senate for the first time in 10 years. His district stretches from east Billings to Miles City and includes Forsyth and Colstrip.

While both men are getting most of their money from Montanans, they're also attracting donations from people outside the state.

Brown has received contributions from Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Washington, South Dakota and Ohio.

Larson has gone even farther afield, with donors also from Nevada, Minnesota, Arizona, California, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New York and Virginia. The race has been featured on "Act Blue," a Democratic Internet fundraising network that allows donors from around the country to route their money to key races.

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