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MT-Gov: FiveThirtyEight Rates MT Governor's Race As The Most Competitive Governor Race Of 2020

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FiveThirtyEight has a new piece out today about the 11 Governor races coming up this year. The most competitive and only toss-up race this year is Montana:

The most competitive contest is probably the governor’s race in Montana, where Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock is term-limited. While both parties will select their gubernatorial nominees on June 2, the 2020 race includes at least one familiar face: Bullock’s general election opponent from 2016, Rep. Greg Gianforte, is running again, and is currently the leading GOP contender.

It may seem surprising that election forecasters at Inside Elections, Sabato’s Crystal Ball and The Cook Political Report all rate Montana as a toss-up, considering the state’s R+18 Republican lean,1 but Montanans have backed a Democrat in the last four gubernatorial elections. Fortunately for Democrats, governors races aren’t quite as nationalized as Senate races, which means in a state like Montana, a Democrat like Bullock can win reelection by 4 percentage points even though President Trump carried the state by 20 points.

As for the current lay of the land in Montana, the last comprehensive poll of the GOP primary came out in September, and it found Gianforte up 56 percent to 29 percent over Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, the other well-known Republican contender. Gianforte, a wealthy technology entrepreneur and Montana’s lone House member, is perhaps best known for attacking a reporter during Montana’s 2017 special election for the seat he now holds. Nonetheless, he’s favored in part because he’s a strong fundraiser — on top of being independently wealthy — having significantly outraised Fox $2.3 million to $680,000 (though Gianforte’s haul included a $500,000 personal loan). As for the Democrats, Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney and businesswoman Whitney Williams seem locked in a close race. There’s no meaningful public polling, but both candidates have raised about $700,000. Cooney has a lengthy political resume and Bullock’s endorsement, which might give him an advantage, but Williams has strong familial ties to Montana politics even though she hasn’t held public office before. Her father is former Democratic Rep. Pat Williams, who represented part or all of Montana for 18 years.

LT. Governor Mike Cooney (D. MT) has been endorsed by Governor Steve Bullock (D. MT) and U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D. MT) and picked up the endorsement from the Montana Federation of Public Employees, Montana’s biggest union.

The U.S. Senate race in Montana was already making Montana a hot state for the 2020 election and the Governor race is certainly going to be a big one as well. Click below to donate and get involved with Montana Democrat of your choice:

Mike Cooney

Whitney Williams