HELENA – Democratic state Rep. Tom Woods of Bozeman has dropped out of Montana’s U.S. House race – although five Democrats still remain, vying for the nomination to challenge Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte.
Woods announced his decision Monday with a post on his personal Facebook page, saying he couldn’t compete with other candidates who already had raised “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Woods said those amounts are “well over 10 times of what I have been able to raise.”
He told MTN News Tuesday he thought he could hang in against two well-funded fellow Democrats who were early entrants in the race, but that when two other unexpected candidates from Bozeman also announced, it made fund-raising even tougher.
“With three people from Bozeman running, it really cut into my ability to fund-raise,” he said.
Woods, 56, became the third Democrat in the race early last fall, joining Billings attorney John Heenan and former land-trust director Grant Kier of Missoula.
Three other Democrats then joined the contest: Former state Rep. Kathleen Williams and attorney Jared Pettinato, both from Bozeman, and former state Sen. Lynda Moss of Billings.
Woods didn’t endorse anyone in his departure message, although he did mention Heenan, saying “he has very similar progressive-issue positions to me on health-care reform, human rights, raising the minimum wage and fighting corporate money in politics.”
Heenan and Kier each reported six-figure fund-raising totals last October; the next report for all candidates is due Jan. 31.
Gianforte, a Bozeman businessman and philanthropist, won Montana’s only U.S. House seat last May 25 in a special election. He succeeded Ryan Zinke, who had resigned his post to become President Donald Trump’s Interior secretary.
Gianforte is running for a second term this year.
Democrats will choose their nominee for the race in the June 5 primary election.
Wood said he’ll probably run again for his legislative seat representing House District 62, which covers central and south Bozeman.
While Woods won’t be running in the U.S. House race, he said he believes Democrats can “absolutely” beat Gianforte, by emphasizing issues and the votes taken so far by Gianforte.
“I think people are getting tired of wealthy guys waltzing in and running government and giving themselves tax breaks,” Woods told MTN News. “I think people are going to respond to the fact that they’re going to lose health care over Republican plans to cut taxes for themselves.”
Gianforte voted for the Republican federal tax-cut bill last month, arguing that its cuts will benefit all Montanans and the economy.