Bozeman Rep. Tom Woods said Tuesday he is withdrawing from the U.S. House race for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte.

Woods told the Chronicle that running for a congressional seat is a “rich man’s game.” It’s an “arms race,” he said, and if you don’t raise enough money, you don’t hire the right people, you will be beat.

“To continue to go forward would put me in debt,” Woods said.

In a news release Tuesday, he said he hasn’t been able to raise enough money to be competitive with primary opponents. He said he’s enjoyed running, but it wouldn’t be in the interest of his family, the party and the state’s progressive community to run a campaign that won’t win.

Woods said the Democrats have a great group of qualified candidates, all of whom he backs against incumbent Gianforte.

“I believe many of you will be disappointed by my decision, but I hope you’ll stay engaged in the Democratic primary this year,” he said.

Before Woods announced running for the congressional seat, he said he was weighing his decision against raising the money for his campaign and giving up another run for his seat in the state Legislature. Now that Woods has withdrawn his name from the U.S. House race, he said he is leaning heavily toward running again for his seat as a state representative.

“Running for the state Legislature isn’t as expensive,” Woods said.

He said he still felt strongly that he was a qualified candidate for the U.S. House position, but it was a pragmatic choice for him and his family to withdraw. Asked if he would consider running for a congressional seat in the future, Woods said he wouldn’t say no to the possibility.

The price of the elections, he said, are really affecting who can run for congressional seats. Woods said there needed to be more “normal people” in government, like people who’ve worked for a paycheck.

“It’s really tragic, and I think it has a negative effect on government,” Woods said.

Looking ahead, Woods said he had his sights set on a position with the Montana Public Service Commission. The issues the PSC deal with, he said, are ones he’s worked on a lot as a legislator.

“The PSC needs to be changed,” Woods said.

Woods could be looking at running for the PSC’s District 3 in 2020, when current commissioner Roger Koopman is termed out of office. That district serves several counties, including Gallatin, Madison, Park and Silver Bow.

The pool for the Democratic primary is still crowded with five contenders hoping to gain the party’s nomination. The candidates include former Five Valleys Land Trust Director Grant Kier of Missoula, Billings attorney John Heenan, former state legislators Linda Bourque Moss of Missoula and Kathleen Williams of Bozeman, and Bozeman attorney Jared Pettinato.

Freddy Monares can be reached at 406-582-2630, or by email at


Freddy Monares covers politics and county government for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

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