HELENA – Lt. Gov. John Walsh, the leading Democrat running for the Senate seat held by outgoing Sen. Max Baucus, raised $583,000 during the first three months of his campaign last year.
The fundraising total reported Friday by Walsh puts him well ahead of his Democratic primary opponents, rancher Dirk Adams, of Wilsall, and former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger, in campaign cash.
But Walsh’s total, as expected, trails the leading Republican candidate, U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, who spent all last year raising money and reported earlier this week that he had $1.9 million in his campaign account as of Dec. 31.
Walsh, a retired colonel in the Montana National Guard and the Guard’s commander from mid-2008 to March 2012, officially entered the Senate race three months ago, on Oct. 2.
Walsh became the choice of most state and national Democratic insiders after several other high-profile Montana Democrats, including former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, declined to enter the race last summer.
Walsh reported Friday that he raised nearly $389,000 from individuals and $194,000 from special-interest political action committees in the three months ending Dec. 31. After the campaign spent slightly more than $147,000, it closed out the period with $435,500 in the bank.
Adams, a political newcomer, reported Friday that he raised $103,000 during the last three months of 2013, but didn’t provide a detailed breakdown on where the money came from. He said he had about $69,000 left in his campaign account and another $41,000 in campaign debt.
Bohlinger raised about $20,000 during the period, including $10,000 of his own money, and has spent most of those funds, said his campaign consultant, Bob Brigham.
Bohlinger has said he may drop out of the race if Walsh is appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock to fill out the rest of Baucus’ term, after Baucus is confirmed as U.S. ambassador to China.
Baucus, a 39-year veteran of Congress and the longest-serving senator in Montana history, announced last April he would not run for re-election in 2014. Then, in December, President Obama said he would nominate Baucus to be the next U.S. ambassador to China.
Baucus had a confirmation hearing Tuesday before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and could be confirmed by the full Senate for the ambassador post as soon as next week.
Once Baucus resigns his Senate seat, Bullock appoints a successor to fill out the rest of Baucus’ term.
Walsh has said he’s interested in the appointment, although Bullock has said nothing about whom he might appoint.
Daines, the clear front-runner for the GOP nomination for the Baucus seat, has two primary opponents: State Rep. Champ Edmunds, of Missoula, and David Leaser, a Kalispell air traffic controller.
Edmunds did not return a message inquiring about his fundraising report. Leaser could not be reached for comment.