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Tester preparing for tough re-election campaign

Sheehy declares as GOP candidate, Rosendale likely to run

Before a former Navy SEAL declared his candidacy in next year's race for one of Montana's U.S. Senate seats, incumbent Democrat Jon Tester said he was ready for a fight in his bid for a fourth term in the 2024 election.

"Look, I'm used to tough elections," Tester said in a telephone press conference last week.

Former SEAL and Belgrade-based Bridger Aerospace aerial firefighting company founder and CEO Tim Sheehy announced Monday he is entering the race as a Republican.

"My life has been shaped by my service to our country and our community," Sheehy said in a release announcing his candidacy. "My commitment to job creation here in Montana has been steadfast across

multiple industries, and I am a firm believer in the power of conservative values and the strength of the American individual. I've proudly fought for our country to defend our freedoms, and I'm once again answering the call to serve."

Sheehy called Tester a career politician and said he would bring a new generation of strong conservative leadership and common-sense solutions to Washington.

The election for the Montana Senate seat has been highlighted as one of the races key to control of the Senate, with the GOP targeting Tester in the hope of switching the seat.

U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., who lost the general election to Tester six years ago, is another potential candidate, with both Politico and The Hill reporting sources saying he is considering running, potentially setting up a major primary battle in the race.

Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke, the former Interior secretary, is also considered a possible candidate.

The head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Tester's fellow Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., did not endorse Sheehy but praised his entry in the race.

"Tim Sheehy is a

decorated veteran, successful businessman and a great Montanan," Daines said in a release. "I could not be happier that he has decided to enter the Montana Senate race."

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has been regularly putting out releases attacking Tester.

The Montana Democrats called Sheehy an establishment recruit.

"Jon Tester has farm equipment that's been in Montana longer than Tim Sheehy," said Monica Robinson, senior communications advisor for the Montana Democratic Party. "The last thing Montanans want in a senator is an out-of-state transplant recruited by (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell and D.C. lobbyists."

And attention is starting to fall on

the amount of campaign contributions Tester is receiving from industry, including the banking industry while the Senate was looking at banking regulations and from the defense industry.

Tester chairs the Senate Appropriations

Committee Defense Subcommittee, as well as the Veterans Affairs Committee.

A spokesperson for Tester said his decisions all are based on what is best for Montana and the nation, and cited his abiding by a commitment to having a judge audit his office's relations with interest groups, which the spokesperson said have found no reasons for concern, and his posting a public schedule of all of his official meetings.

See a related story on Page A2.

Tester said in the press conference last week his record speaks for itself.

"You know, elections are about accountability, and we're going to talk about what I've been able to accomplish as the United States senator from Montana," he said.

He said his record on infrastructure - he was one of the bipartisan group that crafted the infrastructure bill that passed last year - the military, agriculture - both farming and ranching - and how important it is to maintain the U.S.

position as leader of the world, both economically and from a defense standpoint, will show in the election.

"And how it's important to take care of our veterans, because we all have an all-volunteer military, and the work we've done in that," Tester said. "So, look, bottom line is this ... I've got a great record to run on.

"What they've always done in every one of these elections is they try to make me into somebody else and run against that person," Tester added. "But if they run against Jon Tester, the third-generation farmer who still farms the land my grandparents settled more than 100 years ago, and they look at my record, and they see the transparency of my office, I think we're in good shape."

 

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