- Associated Press - Friday, April 11, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - U.S. Rep. Steve Daines has raised more than $1.2 million so far this year in his Senate run, outpacing his likely Democratic opponent in both contributions and cash in the bank, the Republican’s campaign said Friday.

Daines raked in more than $1,215,000 in the first three months of 2014, slightly more than the $1,214,716 raised by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester during the same period two years ago, which was a Montana record.

“Our campaign raised more than has ever been raised in Montana by a candidate for U.S. Senate in the first quarter of an election year. A record-breaking fundraising quarter sends a strong statement - our campaign is well positioned as we begin the 2014 election,” campaign spokesman Brock Lowrance said in a statement.

More significantly, Daines‘ fundraising counters a surge in donations to Democratic Sen. John Walsh, who saw a nearly 62 percent increase in contributions when he was named to replace Max Baucus.

Gov. Steve Bullock appointed Walsh, then lieutenant governor, in February when Baucus resigned to become ambassador to China. Earlier this week, Walsh’s campaign reported raising about $946,000 in the first quarter, which is up from $583,000 in the final three months of 2013.

Neither Walsh’s nor Daines‘ primary opponents have released their fundraising figures.

Combined with last year’s fundraising, the Daines campaign has $2.2 million on hand, while Walsh has about $700,000 in the bank.

Daines‘ campaign has been running television ads since February introducing the candidate, and Lowrence said the campaign intends to stick to its original advertising strategy despite the influx of cash.

“I think the lesson that Steve Daines and his team took away in (the 2012 election) is it’s important to be likable and for voters to have a relationship with you,” Montana State University political scientist David Parker said. “It’s no surprise the very first ads he launched are about him and his story and his family.”

Walsh has been running fewer ads, but his newfound cash likely means more ads will be coming from his campaign soon, Parker said.

Daines is a first-term congressman who decided to run after Baucus announced a year ago he wouldn’t seek re-election. He faces state Rep. Champ Edmunds and political newcomer Susan Cundiff, an administrative assistant at the University of Montana, in the June 3 primary.

Walsh is up against former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger and rancher Dirk Adams, who is making his first run for office.

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