The most expensive legislative race in state history has topped $200,000 according to campaign finance reports filed Thursday.
The reports covered the period between June 24 and Oct. 20.
Billings candidates Roy Brown and Kendall Van Dyk each reported raising more than $100,000 with most of the money already spent as just 11 days remain before the general election.
To put that into perspective, the median home price in Billings is $150,000. The number of voters in 2008 who cast ballots in the neighborhoods Brown and Van Dyk are targeting: 8,071.
“It’s a humbling amount of money that people have donated out of their hard-earned dollars for me, and I have used it very wisely,” said Brown, the Republican incumbent in the race. “I have the greatest respect for those people who have offered me that money. There are more than 1,000 people and 97 percent are right here in Montana and three-quarters are from Yellowstone County.”
Brown has raised $105,000. He’s taken issue with out-of-state money collected by Van Dyk, who currently represents portions of north-central Billings in the state House.
Van Dyk has raised $110,000. Together, the two candidates have churned a blizzard of political advertising in Senate District 25, which covers north-central Billings. Van Dyk’s current House district makes up half of his and Brown’s battleground.
Brown has directed his money to mailers, door hangers, TV and radio. Van Dyk has put most of his money into mail literature and getting voters to the polls.
“I have a pretty expensive mail program and we spent a lot of money early,” Van Dyk said. “We needed enough money to get out the vote. It isn’t get-out-the-vote day anymore, it’s get-out-the-vote month.”
Absentee ballots went out to households the first week of October. People have been voting by mail and at the courthouse ever since.
Both candidates indicated that they couldn’t risk not keeping up with their opponent in the money race.
Theirs is the most expensive legislative race on record, but it passed that mark in June, according the state campaign finance reports.
Brown reported raising just more than $77,000 by June, eclipsing the $74,000 record set by local Democrat Lane Larson in 2008. But Larson’s past record was based on a full year of campaign fundraising.
There’s a lot at stake for both candidates. Van Dyk passed on a chance to run for re-election in his House district in order to take on Brown. If he wins, that means he’s not only kept the support of voters in his House district, but also found favor with voters in House District 50, which leans Republican and makes up the other half of Brown’s Senate seat.
Brown is a tenured legislator who started his career in the House in 1999 before later winning a Senate seat. If he wins and Republicans control the Senate, Brown would be primed for leadership.