Top Montana State Republican Lawmakers Break From National GOP, Reveal Their Senate Pick

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Mary Lou Masters Contributor
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Republican leaders in both chambers of Montana’s state legislature along with 37 other lawmakers are backing U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale for Senate in 2024, who has yet to launch a bid and is not the favorite of the GOP in Washington, D.C.

Former Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy was recruited to run by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman Steve Daines of Montana and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and has received endorsements from GOP Gov. Greg Gianforte along with numerous other national Republicans. Montana’s Senate President Jason Ellsworth, Speaker of the House Matt Regier and other legislators argued Rosendale is the best candidate to beat Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and challenge the “establishment” in Washington, D.C., according to the letter.

“To challenge this status quo, we need a courageous fighter in D.C. Someone unafraid to defy the Mitch McConnell establishment, demand change, and restore Congress to the principles that shaped this great nation,” the letter reads. “It is insufficient to merely promise change; the demonstration of real action matters. Matt Rosendale has shown through his demand for rule changes from Speaker McCarthy earlier this year, an unwelcome action in the view of D.C. insiders but essential to restore democratic representation.”

Rosendale, who is considering challenging Sheehy in the GOP primary, served in both chambers of the state legislature, was state auditor, ran for Senate in 2018 and has been serving in Congress since 2020, according to Ballotpedia. The NRSC opted not to tap Rosendale for the seat, citing his previous loss to Tester by 3.5 points.

Sheehy is a businessman who founded an aerial firefighting company after serving in Afghanistan post-9/11. Republican critics in the state are skeptical of the former Navy SEAL running to unseat a longtime Democratic senator, as he has never run for or held public office. (RELATED: ‘Establishment Vs. Grassroots’: Montana Conservatives Balk At Republican Leadership’s Senate Pick For 2024)

Though there is very little polling available, a late June survey from the Democrat-linked Public Policy Polling (PPP) suggests Rosendale would trounce Sheehy in a Republican primary 64% to 10%. The congressman would also beat Tester by 5 points in a 2024 general election matchup, an OnMessage Inc. survey from early March indicates.

“I am honored and humbled to receive this statement of support and encouragement from leaders across our state. It is evident that Montanans will not have their next senator chosen by Mitch McConnell and the DC Cartel,” Rosendale wrote in a tweet. “Right now, my priority is to serve the people of Montana in the U.S. House, but I will continue to carefully consider this with my family and prayer to ultimately make a decision based on what is in the best interest of Montana.”

Tester’s seat is characterized by The Cook Political Report in the “Lean D” category, along with four other Senate races in Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Sheehy did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.

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