U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat running this year for his third term, reported Wednesday that he’s cracked the $9 million mark in total campaign fundraising – and has more than 10 times the money of any potential challenger.

The Tester campaign said he raised another $1.5 million during the final three months of 2017, pushing his five-year total for the 2018 campaign to $9.3 million.

He’s spent about $3 million of that money, leaving the campaign with $6.3 million in the bank – far beyond what any Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Montana has raised so far.

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“Jon continues to fight for Montana in Washington and his grassroots support continues to grow,” Tester’s campaign spokesman Chris Meagher said in a statement.

Tester, a farmer from Big Sandy, often shows up on lists of potentially vulnerable Democratic incumbents for 2018, because President Donald Trump won Montana by 20 percentage points in 2016.

But Montana Republicans haven’t coalesced around a specific challenger, with as many as six people vying for the GOP nomination in the race. Republican voters will choose their nominee in the June 5 primary election.

Three of the Republican candidates have reported respectable fundraising numbers, but all are under $1 million:

  • Big Sky businessman Troy Downing’s campaign said he so far has raised $857,000 for his campaign – although 75 percent, or $650,000, has come from his own pocket. He ended last year with $147,000 in the bank, his campaign said.
  • State Auditor Matt Rosendale said he has raised about $760,000 through the end of last year. He hasn’t yet released how much money he has in the bank. Reports were due at the Federal Election Commission Wednesday.
  • Former state District Judge Russell Fagg said he had raised about $615,000 through December and started the year with $468,000 in his campaign account.

State Sen. Al Olszewski of Kalispell, another Republican candidate, hasn’t yet reported his year-end fundraising totals. Belgrade business owner Ron Murray and Havre financial adviser James Dean also have said they’re running in the race.

The Tester campaign said it has received more than 7,200 donations from Montanans, showing “a sign of strong grassroots support.”

However, an MTN analysis last fall showed that at least 81 percent of Tester’s campaign money had come from people and political-action committees outside of Montana.

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