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Dem Schreiner out of MT gov race; two Dems remain

Posted: 12:04 PM, Feb 03, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-03 19:40:30-05
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HELENA — Montana House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner said Monday he’s dropping out of the 2020 race for governor, leaving just two announced Democrats still in the hunt for the open governor’s seat.

“Unfortunately, we just don’t have the resources necessary to be the competitive campaign that Montana workers and families deserve,” he said in an announcement posted on Twitter. “It’s time for us to get behind the candidate that has the best chance of winning and promoting our shared values come November.”

Yet Schreiner, a state lawmaker from Great Falls, told MTN News he hasn’t decided which candidate he may endorse.

The two Democrats still in the contest are Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney and Missoula businesswoman and first-time candidate Whitney Williams.

Three Republicans also are running for governor, which is an open seat in 2020 because Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock is barred by term limits from running for another term.

Schreiner, 37, was the second Democrat to get into the race, launching his campaign last June.

But the former teacher and state director of a work-based learning program has struggled to raise money and gain recognition.

In the three-month period that ended in December, his campaign raised just $15,000 – compared to $440,000 by Williams and $200,000 by Cooney.

The three Republicans in the race had rolled up more than $2 million in campaign funds through the end of last year.

In an interview with MTN News three weeks ago, Schreiner said he was determined to stay in the race, as an example of an “every-day” Montanan who could run for governor. However, he acknowledged that it was a difficult task to take time off from work to travel the state on a full-time campaign.

He said he knew he didn’t have a built-in network of contacts that could make large, personal donations to his campaign.

“We always knew we were not going to be a juggernaut when it came to fundraising,” he said. “There’s this idea that candidates need to spend six hours (a day) on the phone fundraising. Well, it should be about talking to the people of Montana and finding what their needs, their wants, their wishes are for our state.”

Earlier in the campaign, Schreiner rolled out a proposal to help finance Montanans’ education at two-year state colleges.

Schreiner is the current House minority leader, elected to that post by fellow Democrats in January 2019. He’s been the state representative for House District 26 in Great Falls since 2013, and can’t run for that seat again because of term limits.

Reilly Neill, a little-known Democratic former state lawmaker from Livingston who announced her candidacy for governor a day before Schreiner did, dropped out of the race 10 days ago.