Tester announces he’s running for reelection in Montana, providing some relief to Democrats

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)
Greg Nash
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) speaks to reporters as he leaves an all-senators briefing with Biden administration officials on Wednesday, February 15, 2023 to discuss unidentified objects recently shot down over the past week.

Montana Sen. Jon Tester (D) announced Wednesday that he will seek reelection for a fourth term, giving some relief to Democrats who see his bid for reelection as key to their hopes of retaining the Senate majority.

Tester said in a statement that people in Washington, D.C., do not understand the challenges facing working families in his state and he is running to defend “Montana values.” 

“I am running for re-election so I can keep fighting for Montanans and demand that Washington stand up for our veterans and lower costs,” he said. “Montanans need a fighter holding Washington accountable and I’m running to defend our Montana values.”

Democrats hold a 51-49 edge in the Senate, with two independents, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucus with the Democrats.

In 2024, Democrats are defending several Senate seats in states that were won by former President Trump in the 2020 election. In addition to the Montana seat, Democrats are playing defense in Ohio and West Virginia.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has said he will run for reelection; Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has not announced his plans. Democrats also face potentially tough races in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Tester’s decision to run again in Montana gives Democrats a candidate who is a proven winner in the state.

A release from Tester’s campaign said the incumbent senator has a record of bringing together a broad coalition of Montanans and cited a Morning Consult poll from last month that showed 60 percent of registered voters approved of the job he was doing.

The poll found Tester is the “most popular incumbent who would face a tough 2024 contest.”

Former President Trump won the state over President Biden in the 2020 presidential election by more than 16 points.

But Tester has shown resilience in three straight close races, winning by about 3.5 points in his most recent reelection bid in 2018. He also won by almost 4 points during his 2012 contest, which happened during the presidential election that year.

Tester previously indicated he was not sure if he would run for reelection, saying in December that he would need to discuss his plans with his family but that he felt “good” about his chances if he did run.

“People are going to come after me,” he said at the time. “They’ve come after me in the past, but that’s politics. And we’ll get through it and then hopefully be successful come November of 2024.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which works to elect Republicans to the Senate, slammed Tester in a statement following his announcement.

“The Tester-Biden agenda has given Montanans rising crime, higher taxes, and an open southern border that is flooding communities with deadly fentanyl,” said NRSC spokeswoman Maggie Abboud. “Montanans are going to send Joe Biden’s favorite Senator packing in 2024.”

GOP Sen. Steve Daines, Montana’s other senator and the chair of the NRSC, also went after Tester in a statement. The statement was first reported by Punchbowl and later tweeted by the NRSC’s account.

Daines said Tester has made the same mistake that former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) did, referring to Bullock’s unsuccessful attempt to unseat Daines in the Senate in 2020.

“Both should have ended their political careers on their terms,” Daines said. “Instead, they each will have their careers ended by Montana voters.”

Tester reportedly encouraged Bullock, who was coming to the end of his second term as governor, to run against Daines for the seat, according to Punchbowl.

–Updated at 3:57 p.m.

Tags 2024 presidential election 2024 Senate elections Donald Trump Jon Tester Jon Tester Kyrsten Sinema Sherrod Brown Steve Daines

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