` An expected declaration that the sole U.S. representative from Montana will declare himself a candidate for the Senate in 2012 has raised speculations about who will step up to run for his seat.
As of this morning, state Rep. Franke Wilmer, D-Bozeman, was the only candidate — including incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg — who had declared an intention to run for Rehberg’s seat.
Rehberg, elected to his sixth term in the House of Representatives in November, is expected to announce his intent to run against first-term U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Big Sandy at the Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner in Helena Saturday.
Brian Barrett, Rehberg’s campaign spokesman, said Tuesday the congressman would announce his decision Saturday.
Bozeman businessman Steve Daines announced in November he was running against Tester in the 2012 Senate election.
His spokesman, Jason Thielman, said this morning that Daines would make an announcement Thursday regarding his campaign.
Speculation, again, has been that Daines, who made a campaign stop in Havre in December, may switch his candidacy from the Senate to the House in anticipation of Rehberg's anticipated decision to run for the Senate.
Rehberg soundly defeated his Democratic opponent, former Montana Democratic Chair Dennis MacDonald, in the 2010 election.
MacDonald defeated his challengers in the primary, Tyler Gernant and Melinda Gopher, both of Missoula, and Sam Rankin of Billings, with MacDonald receiving 24,014 votes and the other Democrats receiving 15,177, 13,170 and 10,138, respectively.
Rehberg soundly defeated his Republican challenger, Billings professor A.J. Otjen, 96,796-7,461.
Rehberg started his career in the Montana House, then was appointed lieutenant governor by Gov. Stan Stephens, and was elected to the office in 1992 with Gov. Marc Racicot.
After losing a close race to unseat senior Montana Sen. Max Baucus in 1996, Rehberg won a close race against Superintendent of Public Instruction Nancy Keenan in 2000 and has soundly won all bids for re-election since.
Tester, a former state senator, won a close race to unseat three-term Republican Sen. Conrad Burns in 2006.