SARAH COOKE Associated Press Writer HELENA
Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg has raised more than $196,000 for his re-election campaign since last November, but new campaign finance reports show an impressive debut from his Democratic challenger. Bill Kennedy, a Yellowstone County commissioner from Billings, brought in more than $115,000 since entering the race in April, according to the latest reports. He spent $23,333 in that time, leaving him with $91,718 in the bank as of June 30. “We have 623 contributors, and that’s huge this early in the campaign,” Kennedy said Friday. “We’ve only been raising money for a little over two months, and we look forward to seeing those numbers multiply as we keep talking to people across the state of Montana.” Rehberg, a four-term congressman, raised $119,793 between April and June this year, and has brought in $196,219 since last November’s elections. More than $112,000 of that total money came from individuals, while $4,560 came from political party committees and $79,500 from political action committees, or PACS. Political action committees are specialinterest groups composed of business executives, union members or activists that donate money to a common fund that is then distributed to candidates. Rehberg spent $80,864 in the past three months, leaving him with $339,382 in the bank. Kennedy’s report showed he raised $108,876 from individuals and $6,000 from PACs. No money was reported from political party committees. Rehberg campaign spokesman Dustin Frost said Kennedy’s initial fundraising figures which the Democrat claimed were among the top 25 percent of all Democratic House races weren’t that surprising. “The first quarter after you announce, that’s where the easier money is and when it comes in,” he said. Rehberg announced earlier this month he would not run against four-term Montana Sen. Max Baucus or Gov. Brian Schweitzer, and is currently focused on his job as the state’s lone congressman, Frost said. “When the campaign season comes, we will certainly be (actively raising money),” he said. Kennedy said he’s “just getting warmed up,” and added he’s the better choice for the House seat because Rehberg hasn’t voted with Montana. “Dennis Rehberg tows the partisan line and he’s forgotten who he represents,” Kennedy said. “I will wake up every day fighting for Montana not the national political parties or special interests. Montanans deserve better.” Frost pointed to a Lee Newspapers of Montana poll last month that showed Rehberg with a 61 percent job approval rating. “That shows that Denny’s really making a difference for Montana and people see that difference out there,” he said. Kennedy, a 49-year-old former teacher, has been a county commissioner since 1993 and faces a June 2008 party primary. He ran for secretary of state in 2004, losing by 2 percentage points to Bozeman Republican Brad Johnson. Rehberg won each of his last three races by at least 20 percentage points, after entering office in 2000 with a narrow victory over former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Nancy Keenan. He lost a 1996 U.S. Senate bid to Baucus.