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Montana's open U.S. House seat is a top-dollar race

Montana's open U.S. House seat is a top-dollar race


With slightly more than 100 days to go, the race for Montana’s at-large U.S. House seat remains one of the best funded in the country, indicating Democrats consider the seat as winnable despite Republicans' 24-year winning streak.

Kathleen Williams exited June as the sixth-best funded Democrat for an open U.S. House seat. The Bozeman conservationist was 11th overall in open seat races. State Auditor Matt Rosendale was the seventh-best funded Republican and the 16th best funded open-seat candidate, not too far behind Williams.

Democrats have not won Montana’s only House seat since 1994, but Williams when challenged incumbent Rep. Greg Gianforte she did better than any Democratic House candidate since 1994. She won 46.2% of the vote and raised $4.1 million in the process, also a record for a Montana Democratic candidate for U.S. House.

Williams has raised $2.4 million so far, ahead of her 2018 fundraising pace. She’s led all primary candidates, Republican or Democrat, in fundraising so far this year. Rosendale has raised $1.9 million. Cook Political Report assessed the race as leaning Republican, one partisan step above a tossup.

Republicans say the Democratic Party’s platform is out of step with Montanans.

“We wish Kathleen Williams luck selling the Democrats’ $93 trillion Green New Deal tax hike and anti-gun agenda” said Torunn Sinclair, National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman.

Where the candidates are close is how they performed against incumbents in 2018. Rosendale won 46.7% of the vote against incumbent Jon Tester in the 2018 U.S. Senate race.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sees the U.S. House seat in play, in part because of Rosendale’s 2018 loss to Tester, in race that featured four appearances in Montana by President Donald Trump. In a state where Republicans’ grasp on the Montana Legislature is strong and only one Democrat, Gov. Steve Bullock, won statewide office in 2016, Tester’s third-term win was the best he’d ever done with Montana voters. The incumbent won more than 50% of the vote for the first time.

Tester’s campaign railed on Rosendale as an out-of-stater from Maryland. Democrats are doing the same in the House race.

Rosendale was elected state auditor in that 2016 sweep and regulated securities and insurers. He’s an opponent of the Affordable Care Act, and his support of insurance policies that cost less up front but also offer less coverage has been part of the Democrats' attack.

“When Maryland Matt Rosendale isn’t raising health care premiums and pushing junk insurance plans onto Montana families, he’s more than eager to stuff his campaign coffers with money from big-dollar special interests from the D.C. swamp to remain competitive. That is why this race is a dead heat,” said Andy Orellana, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman.

Although Montana’s candidates for U.S. House are near the top in spending for open seat races, there’s a great divide between the best-funded candidate and rest of the field. Former California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa has raised the most, at $8.2 million. Republican Kathaleen Wall of Texas is second at $7.4 million.

Money isn’t everything. Three of the top 10 fundraisers have already lost.



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