By By BOB ANEZ/Associated Press Writer
HELENA - Ken Miller, a former state senator from Laurel and immediate past chairman of the Montana Republican Party, said Monday he's running for governor in 2004.
Miller, 46, said he will formally launch his campaign on Saturday with an ice cream social in Laurel.
He joins Tom Keating of Billings, another former state senator, in the race for the Republican nomination.
But the GOP field is likely to become more crowded.
Secretary of State Bob Brown is expected to announce his candidacy for governor later this month, and Lt. Gov. Karl Ohs has said he will disclose by the end of July whether he plans to run, too.
Republican Gov. Judy Martz still has not said whether she plans to seek a second four-year term. Chuck Butler, her communications director, said Monday no time has yet been set for announcement of her political plans.
Whitefish farmer Brian Schweitzer is the only Democrat running for governor so far.
However, Senate Minority Leader Jon Tester, D-Big Sandy, said Monday he's eying the governor's race as well. ''It's something I'd like to do, but there's some big issues I have the get resolved,'' he said.
Making arrangements for operation of his farm is the major question, said Tester, who is in the middle of his second and last four-year term.
He said his legislative and agricultural background is an advantage over Schweitzer, and that he will decide this month whether to run.
His won't be a token challenge, Tester said. ''If I get into this thing, it's going to be to win it, not to get my name out there so I can run for something else in four years.''
Miller, a state senator from 1995 through 2002, was prevented by term limits from running for re-election last year. He was elected state party chairman in 2001 and chose not to seek another term as party leader this summer.
He announced in mid-June formation of a committee to test the waters for a gubernatorial bid.
Miller said Monday he's not concerned who gets into the contest for the Republican nominaion.
''I'm not going to differ greatly on the issues with the other candidates,'' he said. ''We don't look at it as running against anybody.''
Miller said he will distinguish himself from the rest of the field with his leadership style and personality.
''It takes someone with a calm personality, the ability to make decisive decisions and be able to communicate,'' he said.
He said his experience as a farmer, business owner, lawmaker and party chairman give him an edge.
''I think we can bring strong leadership to the position, a very positive can-do attitude,'' Miller said.
Montana is in a unique position to fill the energy needs of the country and should take advantage of that situation, he said.
The state needs better-paying jobs, he added. ''Montana has a lot to offer. It's a great place to live and play. We just need to make it a better place to work.''
Miller said he's not sure how much money he'll need to win, because the amount will depend on how many get into the race.
During the last 20 days of June, he raised $200, according to campaign finance reports filed Monday.