Matt Rosendale Announces Long-Awaited Bid For Montana Senate Seat


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Mary Lou Masters Contributor
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Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana launched his bid for Democratic Sen. Jon Tester’s seat on Friday.

The congressman had been teasing such a bid for months, and will have to face former Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy in what will likely be a contentious Republican primary on June 4. Rosendale officially jumped in the race at the state Capitol in Helena, Montana, and took several shots against Sheehy while touting his work in Congress during an announcement video on X. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Gaetz To Campaign With Rosendale In Montana Ahead Of Potential Senate Bid)

“This Republican primary race is the people of Montana versus Mitch McConnell, Joe Biden and the Washington insiders,” said Rosendale. “Mitch McConnell knows that I won’t support him for Republican leader, so he’s trying to keep me out of the Senate. McConnell knows I won’t follow his orders, and he’s fixin’ to find out that the people of Montana won’t follow his orders either by letting him pick our next senator. But they’ve made a big mistake — Montanans don’t take orders from Washington, we send orders to Washington.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) recruited Sheehy in late June 2023, and he quickly received the backing from top GOP leaders in Montana, including Sen. Steve Daines, Gov. Greg Gianforte and Rep. Ryan Zinke. Numerous national Republicans and allies of former President Donald Trump have also thrown their support behind the former Navy SEAL.

However, Rosendale also has the support from several Trump allies, including Florida Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz and Anna Paulina Luna. Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson reportedly planned on endorsing Rosendale, but quickly walked back such a decision on Thursday that would’ve placed him at odds with Senate GOP leadership.

“The Speaker has committed to sending a contribution to Congressman Rosendale, as he has for other House colleagues and friends, but he has not made any endorsements in Senate races. He is singularly focused on growing the House majority,” Greg Steele, Johnson’s political communications director, said in a statement.

The NRSC decided against supporting Rosendale for the seat due to his 2018 loss to Tester by 3.5 points. Both Sheehy and Rosendale have endorsed Trump for 2024, though it’s unclear whether the former president will weigh in on the Montana GOP Senate primary.

Daines, the chairman of the NRSC, released a statement following Rosendale’s launch, emphasizing his support for Sheehy as what he views to be the strongest candidate to defeat Tester.

“It’s unfortunate that rather than building seniority for our great state in the House, Matt is choosing to abandon his seat and create a divisive primary,” said Daines. “Tim Sheehy has my full support because he is the best candidate to take on Jon Tester. Whichever party wins the Montana Senate seat will control the United States Senate in 2024, and Republicans cannot risk nominating a candidate who gave Jon Tester the biggest victory of his career.”

The Cook Political Report moved Tester’s seat, which he’s held since 2007, from the “Lean D” column to the “Toss Up” category in late November. The race now occupies the same lane as the contentious race for Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jacky Rosen of Nevada.

Tester is vulnerable against both Republican candidates, according to polling compiled by FiveThirtyEight. An Emerson College survey released in mid-October indicated the senator would beat Sheehy by four points.

Early polling on the Republican primary had suggested Rosendale would beat Sheehy by double digits, but the most recent data has found the former Navy SEAL making up ground. A Co/Efficient poll released in mid-November found Sheehy leading Rosendale in a head-to-head matchup by eight points.

“As a political outsider, Tim Sheehy has led men and women in war and business, winning America’s toughest battles and creating hundreds of Montana jobs. He knows what it means to have service, sacrifice, and accountability at the center of his mission, and he’s humbled by the support he’s received from patriots across our state who are committed to defeating Jon Tester,” a spokesperson for the Sheehy campaign said in a statement regarding Rosendale’s announcement.

“When others hesitated and showed disloyalty, Tim Sheehy proudly endorsed President Donald J. Trump early on and was honored to speak in support of him during his historic Iowa Caucus victory,” the spokesperson added. “Both successful businessmen and political outsiders, President Trump and Tim Sheehy cannot be bought and are the conservative warriors we need to put the people of Montana first, drain the swamp, and save our country from the mess Joe Biden and Jon Tester created.”

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