High-tech industry mogul Greg Gianforte of Bozeman filed papers Monday to run for governor in 2016.
In an interview with The Montana Standard Monday night, Gianforte, 54, touted his business success as his prime qualification for the state’s highest office.
“My wife and I started a business in our spare bedroom 20 years ago. We showed that with hard work it’s possible to create good-paying jobs for Montanans,” he said. “I think if we want a vibrant private sector that’s creating opportunities for young people, the best leadership for the state may be from somebody with a business background.”
Asked what other issues he expects to build his campaign around, Gianforte said he will soon embark on a tour of the state, “to talk to Montanans and identify the issues that are most important to them. “
“The solutions we found in Gallatin County can work elsewhere in the state,” he said. “I’ve seen the result of the Montana work ethic combined with good leadership to create opportunity. “
Gianforte, who sold his business, RightNow Technologies, to Oracle in 2011 for a reported $1.5 billion, said he was not sure yet whether or not his campaign would be self-financed.
“I’ve had a lot of people pushing me to run,” he said. “I have not decided yet if I’m going to write a check myself or not.” He said the filing “allows us to go out and talk to people and see what the level of support might be.”
Asked whether he expected assistance from the national GOP, he said, “These decisions are best made here in the state.”
Nancy Keenan, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said in a statement, “Today Greg Gianforte, a New Jersey billionaire who is best known for believing seniors have an 'obligation to work’, supporting job-killing, pro-discrimination policies, and leading the charge on protecting dark money, filed to run for governor. While Greg Gianforte may think the governor's office can be bought, his extreme record will be on full display this election, a record Montanans will soundly reject.
In turn, Shane Scanlon, spokesman for the Montana GOP, said, ““It’s great to see another formidable GOP candidate consider a run for statewide office.”
“We feel confident Montanans will elect a Republican governor in 2016. It's clear we need new leadership after witnessing Governor Bullock’s questionable competency in the management of state affairs, his dark money hypocrisy, and his failure to fight for working-class Montanans.”
Bullock’s office could not be reached for comment Monday night.
In June, Gianforte toured the state, exhorting political and business leaders to mount a campaign to bring highly paid workers to Montana via telecommuting. The tour included stops in Butte, Missoula, Polson, Lakeside and Somers, Kalispell, Columbia Falls, Thompson Falls, Superior, Hamilton, Deer Lodge, Helena, Dillon, Three Forks, Boulder, Townsend, White Sulphur Springs, Harlowtown, Lewistown, Conrad, Shelby, Havre, Glasgow, Wolf Point, Sidney, Glendive, Miles City, Billings, Livingston, Laurel and Red Lodge.
Democrats then decried the trip around the state as an ill-disguised gubernatorial campaign jaunt, and called for Gianforte to disclose his spending and funding for the trip. Monday evening, the state Democratic Party sent out an email fundraising blast citing Gianforte’s filing.
In the interview Monday evening, Gianforte repeatedly hammered the theme of creating more economic opportunity.
“Montanans know how to work,” he said. “We need more high-wage job opportunity. Too many young people have to leave the state to find meaningful work. I’m passionate about wanting to change that.”