Jonathan Ambarian

HELENA (KPAX) — A former firearms executive, now an author and activist, has announced he’s challenging Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte in next year’s election.

Ryan Busse, a Democrat from Kalispell, launched his campaign Thursday with a video posted on social media.

“My Montana is a place where hardworking people make a good living for themselves, raise their kids with equal opportunity,” he said. “They hunt, they fish, they work hard, they play hard, they fight for the place that they love, together. Unfortunately the Montana that I love, and that my kids have been raised in, is being threatened right now,” he said.

In the ad, Busse criticized Gianforte on issues like property taxes, abortion rights and public schools, and accused the governor of turning Montana into a “playground” for the rich.

“Two different Montanas, and I’ll never stop fighting for ours,” he said.

Busse was formerly a vice president of sales for the firearm company Kimber America. He received national media attention for his 2021 book “Gunfight,” in which he criticized what he called “radicalization” in the firearms industry.

Busse’s two sons, Lander and Badge, are among the youth plaintiffs in the Held v. Montana climate lawsuit.

Gianforte, a Republican, has not yet filed campaign paperwork for the 2024 election. In a statement, a Gianforte spokesperson responded to the announcement.

“From providing record funding for Montana schools and increasing teacher pay, to funding law enforcement and cracking down on drug traffickers, to paying off the state’s debt to make Montana debt-free in ‘23, to cutting taxes for Montanans at every income level, Governor Gianforte remains focused on building upon what he committed to do and has proudly accomplished so far,” they said.

The first candidate to file campaign finance papers for the governor’s race is Republican Tanner Smith, a business owner and state representative from Lakeside.

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