Montana Republican Congressman Matt Rosendale kind of, almost-not-quite announced his long-rumored 2024 bid for U.S. Senate recently, stating in a video posted to social media that he’s “heavily considering running” for the seat currently held by Democrat Jon Tester.
“Over the last several months, I’ve been humbled by the overwhelming support I’ve received from Montanans to challenge Jon Tester, including dozens of state legislators that I’ve had the pleasure of serving with, and the Montana Speaker of the House, and the Senate President,” Rosendale said in the video. “While I was truly honored and privileged to represent the people of eastern Montana in Congress, it is difficult for me to stand by and allow Mitch McConnell and the uniparty to sell our country short and attempt to select our next senator.”
Tester, the only Democrat in Montana with a statewide constituency, is a three-term incumbent and a top target of national Republicans in their effort to win a majority in the U.S. Senate this election cycle. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, chaired by Montana U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, tapped Belgrade entrepreneur and political novice Tim Sheehy for the task of taking on Tester, reports the Montana Free Press.
But many Republicans in both Washington, D.C., and Montana, including several state legislators, have been pushing Rosendale, a GOP hardliner affiliated with the House Freedom Caucus, to run.
“To challenge this status quo, we need a courageous figure in D.C.,” 39 GOP state lawmakers wrote in an open letter in August. “Someone unafraid to defy the Mitch McConnell establishment, demand change, and restore Congress to the principles that shaped this great nation.”
Rosendale, who’s been rumored for months to be planning a run for the seat, has also publicly attacked both Tester and Sheehy, repeatedly stating on social media that they’re all part of the “D.C. Cartel” and the “McConnell-Biden establishment.”
The deadline to file for the Senate race is March 11, 2024. Rosendale challenged and lost to Tester in 2018.
It’s not entirely clear how the policy views of Rosendale and Sheehy might diverge, but it’s no secret that Rosendale is comfortable bucking the Republican party line. He played an important role in the ouster of Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy earlier this year, the result of McCarthy’s support of a bipartisan continuing budget resolution that temporarily kept the government operating.
Rosendale’s statement Wednesday (Dec. 6) followed a remarkable press release from the NRSC earlier in the day suggesting that Rosendale is a “plant from the Democrats.”
The NRSC’s statement came after McCarthy announced that he would resign from Congress at the end of the year. Rosendale was one of eight House Republicans who, along with congressional Democrats, voted to boot McCarthy from the speakership in October.
The NRSC release said Rosendale has benefitted from television ads paid for by a Democratic-aligned super PAC and “has been a great ally to Hakeem Jeffries and Nancy Pelosi in their efforts to take back the House.”
In September, Politico reported that a group with ties to national Democrats called Last Best Place PAC took out a six-figure TV ad attacking Sheehy.
Rosendale addressed the NRSC’s statement in his video Wednesday.
“Earlier today, Mitch McConnell and the [NRSC] came out with a statement attacking me for fighting for fiscal responsibility,” Rosendale said. “They’re terrified of having a true conservative in the United States Senate who fights for the American people and not the swamp creatures who govern Washington.”
The fact that the NRSC is attacking Rosendale instead of Sheehy is “exactly why Senate Republicans continue to find themselves in the minority,” Rosendale added.
This story is excerpted from Capitolized, a weekly newsletter featuring expert reporting, analysis and insight from the reporters of Montana Free Press. Want to see Capitolized in your inbox every Thursday? Sign up here.