The field of Democratic candidates jockeying to challenge U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte narrowed from six to five on Wednesday.
Lynda Moss, a former state senator from Billings, said she has officially closed her congressional campaign office, though her name will still appear on the ballot for the primary election, which is on June 5.
“We have been up against some formidable obstacles since I joined the race last fall,” Moss said in a letter to supporters that she sent out Wednesday.
She said she recently drew up a schedule for the next 50 days with her campaign staff, coming up with “a great plan and an intense schedule.” She ultimately decided, however, that “I do not have the finances to have the competitive campaign that I need to win this primary.”
It was reported earlier this week that Moss had raised $87,069, which included her personal loan to the campaign of $30,274. That was far less than the two top fundraisers in the race, Grant Kier of Missoula, with reported contributions of $666,679, and John Heenan of Billings, with $817,048, counting his personal loan of $250,000.
Kathleen Williams of Bozeman was in third place, with $217,684, trailed by Moss and Jared Pettinato of Bozeman, who reported raising $56,268. John Meyer, also of Bozeman, who joined the race on March 12, did not file a campaign contribution report.
Whoever wins the Democratic primary on June 5 will run against Gianforte, who won a special election last year to complete the term of Ryan Zinke, who was named secretary of the Interior by President Donald Trump.
Moss said that when she decided to run for the House, “I put together a budget that I was told would be doable,” but that turned out not to be the case. A leader, she said, “also has to have the courage to step aside and let go.”
Moss said she will announce which of the surviving candidates she will endorse after the Greater Montana candidate forum in Helena, scheduled for May 3. She said she will make that endorsement based on the “core principles” that underlay her campaign: “integrity, compassion, honesty and hard work.” She also pledged to continue serving Montana, “finding common ground and working collaboratively on positive solutions.”
Moss represented District 26 in the Montana Senate from 2004 to 2012, when she was ineligible to run again because of term limits. She spent 14 years as executive director of the Western Heritage Center in Billings and 10 years as executive director of the Foundation for Community Vitality.
She is now the vice chair of the Northwest Area Foundation and is in line for consideration as chair in 2019, she said. The foundation, headquartered in St. Paul, serves eight states including Montana. It works to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable prosperity.
Moss said her campaign travels around this very large state brought home to her how different the needs and desires of its various communities are — from the emphasis on timber jobs in the west to the importance of coal and oil in the east.
She said her travels also made her realize how “incredibly important” it will be to have an accurate population count in the next census, not only because Montana needs to regain its second seat in the U.S. House, but to ensure that Indian reservations, traditionally undercounted, have all the access to government services that they deserve.
“The question for now,” she said, “is to decide what to do with 10,000 temporary tattoos.”
She wasn’t kidding. She had a lot of the little “Lynda Moss United States Congress” tattoos printed, and she still has 10,000 of them.