HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Whitney Williams, a Missoula businesswoman and the daughter of a nine-term Montana congressman, on Thursday became the fourth Democrat to enter next year’s race for the open Montana governor’s seat.

Williams announced her first run for political office with a video pledging to boost economic opportunities for all Montanans, protect public lands and bring down health care costs. She planned to publicly announce her candidacy later in the day outside the Montana Capitol.

“My parents taught us that being a Montanan was a privilege, but that it’s up to every generation to fight for it,” she said in the video.

Williams, 48, is the daughter of two prominent figures in Montana Democratic Party politics: former U.S. Rep. Pat Williams, who was a congressman from 1979 to 1997, and former state legislator Carol Williams, the first woman to serve as minority and majority leader in the state Senate.

The younger Williams told The Associated Press before the announcement that her parents would be among her informal advisers, but she’s running on her own merits and not their legacy.

“I think mom and dad are going to be cheering from behind the scenes and helpful wherever they can be, but this is definitely my race,” she said.

She enters a Democratic primary field that also includes Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, Montana House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner and former state legislator Reilly Neill. They are competing for their party’s nomination to defend the seat that Republicans see as an opportunity to take back the office after 16 years of Democratic control.

Williams acknowledged she is less well-known than some of her primary opponents. “Winning is going to take a lot of hard work,” she said. “I really admire all these folks who are running, I just have a different point of view.”

U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, Attorney General Tim Fox and state Sen. Al Olszewski are running for the Republican nomination. Fox’s campaign manager Jack Cutter took a shot at Gianforte in a statement that said Williams’ entry in the race as a “well-connected insider” demonstrates the need for the Republicans to nominate a strong candidate such as Fox.

Williams runs a business that helps companies, individuals and foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pursue philanthropic projects and public advocacy. She also co-founded the Eastern Congo Initiative with actor Ben Affleck meant to help strengthen the African nation’s civil society.

Williams also worked in the Clinton White House as then-first lady Hillary Clinton’s trips director, and later worked on her 2008 presidential campaign.


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