HELENA — Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock Thursday reported raising a stunning $26.8 million in the past three months for his challenge of Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, smashing all Montana campaign records and cementing the race as one of the top Senate battles in the country.
The campaign said Bullock’s huge haul was done without raising any money from corporate political action committees, or PACs.
“Our campaign is powered by individuals, not corporations, because Gov. Bullock is running to give Montana a senator who puts us first – not out-of-state special interests,” said his campaign manager, Megan Simpson.
In just seven months, Bullock has now raised nearly $38 million for his campaign, almost doubling the previous record set two years ago by Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester in his re-election race.
The campaign also reported spending a whopping $32 million in the past three months, leaving about $2 million in its account as of Sept. 30. All told, the two campaigns and outside groups have already spent at least $120 million on the Senate race, surpassing the old record for spending on a single Montana race by $40 million.
Daines, a first-term senator, reported later Thursday that his campaign raised $11.5 million during the last three months, pushing his campaign total to $24.5 million. Daines culled most of money from individuals since July, but it also included nearly $700,000 from PACs.
His campaign spent $15 million during the period, leaving about $3.5 million in the account as of Sept. 30.
"It’s no surprise Steve Bullock’s out-of-state, liberal-mob donors are going all in on his race," said Daines' campaign spokeswoman, Julia Doyle. "He’s the first Democratic Senate candidate in the nation to openly back packing the courts with liberal judges that will threaten our Second Amendment and kill Montana jobs."
Recent polls have shown the race to be an essential toss-up. A Montana State University poll released Tuesday gave Bullock a 49 percent to 47 percent advantage, although the survey was conducted over a two-week period that ended almost two weeks ago.
The Montana Senate contest is one a half-dozen where Democrats hope to knock off an incumbent Republican, in their quest to take control of the U.S. Senate.
The Bullock-Daines contest initially had been considered a longer shot for Democrats to win, compared to other states.
According to Bullock’s report, the campaign raised $25 million from individuals, $236,000 from PACs and $1.56 million in transfers, which are usually a mix of individual and PAC donations routed through various committees.
Outside groups also have poured at least $65 million into the race, as of earlier this week.