U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont.

Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte reported Wednesday that he’s raised a respectable $543,000 toward his re-election campaign this year – but two of his Democratic potential challengers are pretty much keeping up in the money chase.

Billings attorney John Heenan’s campaign said it’s taken in $577,000 through the end of last year, although $200,000 of that money is a loan from Heenan himself.

And Grant Kier, a former land-trust manager from Missoula, said his campaign raised about $441,000 through December.

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Kier and Heenan are among five Democrats running for the primary’s nomination to take on Gianforte this fall, as the freshman Republican and Montana’s only U.S. House member goes for a second term.

Gianforte, a Bozeman high-tech entrepreneur and businessman, won the seat last year in a May 25 special election.

Republicans have held the solo Montana seat in the U.S. House since 1997 – although Gianforte won last May with barely more than 50 percent of the vote.

U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont.

Gianforte, Heenan and Kier also reported similar amounts of money remaining in their campaign accounts, as of Dec. 31.

Gianforte had $345,000, Heenan $375,000 and Kier $308,000.

Heenan said every donation he’s received is “humbling and inspiring.”

Democratic U.S. House candidate John Heenan

“As we all come together to fight what is important to our families and our communities, the progress we continue to make at a grassroots level is attributable to the organizing skills and passion of the people eager to take back Montana from the special interests,” he said.

Kier campaign manager Jake Brown said that Kier is “overwhelmed by the support we’ve received,” and that Montanans are “tired of the lack of leadership Rep. Gianforte continue to demonstrate.”

Democratic U.S. House candidate Grant Kier

Gianforte, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, has not put any of his own money into his re-election campaign. However, he did report still having a $250,000 debt from the campaign last spring, from a loan he made himself.

The other Democrats in the race are former state Rep. Kathleen Williams of Bozeman, former state Sen. Lynda Moss of Billings and Bozeman attorney Jared Pettinato.

Moss said she had raised about $46,000 through last year and has budgeted about $300,000 for her campaign, which she said is “fiscally conservative and reflects Montana values.”

Williams and Pettinato hadn’t released their fundraising numbers by early Wednesday evenings. Reports were due Wednesday at the Federal Election Commission.

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