HELENA (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Rick Hill made it clear Friday he will be running for governor in 2012, scheduling a formal announcement for Monday.
Word of the Republican's candidacy, long expected, comes after some of the biggest election wins seen by the GOP in years. The Republicans dominated state legislative elections, securing the biggest lead in the state House either party has had in decades.
Hill retired from Congress in 1999 after two terms due to eye problems. He has since said that issue has been corrected.
The 63-year-old Hill has remained engaged in the Montana Republican Party. He frequently helps run party conventions and is considered by many to be a dean of the state GOP.
Hill will join a 2012 Republican field that already includes state Sens. Ken Miller, who also used to lead the state Republican Party, and Corey Stapleton. Miller ran for governor in 2004, but lost in the primary to former Secretary of State Bob Brown.
A news release from Hill states he will formally declare his candidacy Monday at a Clancy timber mill.
Term limits prevent Gov. Brian Schweitzer from running again. So far no Democrats have formally announced plans for the office.
Hill was first elected to the House in 1996 — his first bid for elective office — when longtime Rep. Pat Williams, D-Mont., retired. Hill was re-elected in 1998, but he didn't run as expected at the time for a third term due to the eye condition. He has since undergone surgery to fix the problem, he has said.
When in office in the 1990s, Hill generally followed the GOP line in his House votes, although he sometimes bucked his party colleagues.
Noteworthy votes in the House included his support for impeachment against then-President Bill Clinton, a strict line against gun control, and a vote in favor of an unsuccessful override of a presidential veto of a ban on partial-birth abortions.
Hill was succeeded in Congress by current U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg.