Top Republican Recruit Enters US Senate Race Against Tester

  • Challenger vies for seat of three-term Montana Sen. Jon Tester
  • Rep. Rosendale also may compete for Republican nomination

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Businessman and former Navy Seal Tim Sheehy on Tuesday entered the US Senate race in Montana, where he’ll try to unseat Sen. Jon Tester in a contest that will be key to determining whether Democrats keep the majority.

“America needs conservative leaders who love our country, and that’s why I’m running,” Sheehy said in an announcement video.

The campaign took an aggressive tone in an email, attempting to link Tester to a “liberal agenda” responsible for “inflation, a disastrous deficit, skyrocketing energy prices, open borders, and drag queen story time on our military bases.”

Photo provided by the campaign
Republican Tim Sheehy is a candidate for US Senate in Montana

Sheehy, CEO of an aerial fire suppression company, Bridger Aerospace, was one of the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s top recruitment targets in a state that went for President Donald Trump by 16 percentage points in 2020.

“I could not be happier that he has decided to enter the Montana Senate race,” NRSC Chairman Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said in a statement.

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), who was re-elected to Congress last year after a stint as Interior secretary during the Trump administration, has been urging Sheehy to run for Senate since last year and believes he’s Republicans’ best possible candidate against Tester, according to a Zinke aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe their political and personal relationship.

Sheehy’s announcement came as the candidate who lost to Tester in 2018, Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), has openly considered a rematch. Spokeswoman Aashka Varma said Rosendale isn’t ready to declare a candidacy and provided a glimpse of of what the primary would be like if he does run:

“Rep. Rosendale has overwhelming trust and support from the voters of Montana and there is no question that the people of Montana deserve better than a Democrat yes-man like Senator Tester or a candidate hand-picked by McConnell and the Washington, D.C. elites,” she said in an email, referring to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Rosendale lost to Tester by fewer than 4 percentage points. In the speaker’s election at the start of the current 118th Congress, Rosendale drew attention for refusing to vote for Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on all 15 ballots.

Tester, who’s been in the Senate since 2007, is chairman of the Senate Appropriations panel responsible for military spending and leads the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Democrats currently hold a slim 51-49 majority, and they have more seats to defend than the GOP, so Montana will be an important battleground state.

Sheehy will continue to serve as CEO during the campaign, Bridger Aerospace said in a press release.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zach C. Cohen in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at; Michaela Ross at

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