HELENA — Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte late Thursday made his 2020 run for Montana governor all but official, filing campaign fundraising paperwork with the state Political Practices Office.
Gianforte, six months into his second term as Montana’s only congressman, also said through a spokesman Thursday he’ll be kicking off his gubernatorial campaign with a formal announcement late next week, in conjunction with the state Republican Party convention in Helena.
“After many conversations and encouragement from Montanans across the state, Greg has filed paperwork to launch a campaign for governor,” the spokesman said.
Thursday’s filing confirmed perhaps the worst-kept secret in Montana politics, as MTN News reported early last week that Gianforte would be entering the already-crowded race to succeed Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, who can’t run for re-election in 2020 because of term limits.
Three other prominent Republicans have announced that they’re running for governor in 2020: Attorney General Tim Fox, state Sen. Al Olszewski of Kalispell and Secretary of State Corey Stapleton.
A Democratic candidate for governor in 2020 has yet to confirm that he or she is running, although Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney and House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner of Great Falls are said to be considering it.
Gianforte, 58, is a Bozeman businessman and co-founder of RightNow Technologies, a software-development firm that began in Bozeman in the mid-1990s and grew to an international company. It was sold to Oracle Corp. in 2012 for $1.8 billion.
Gianforte’s first run for office was in 2016, when he challenged Bullock for governor and lost, 50 percent to 46 percent.
Seven months after that election, he won a special election in May 2017 for Montana’s congressional seat, which was vacated when then-U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke was appointed U.S. Interior secretary.
Gianforte won re-election to the U.S. House seat last year, defeating Democrat Kathleen Williams by five percentage points. Libertarian Elinor Swanson also was in the race.
His entry into the governor’s race will make the U.S. House race an open seat for the second time in three years.
Williams is already running for the House seat and so is political newcomer Tom Winter, a Democratic state representative from Missoula.
Republican state Auditor Matt Rosendale, who ran for Congress in 2014 and lost the 2018 U.S. Senate race to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, also is considered a likely candidate for the House seat next year — now that the seat will be open.