Matt Rosendale Launches Montana Senate Bid, Prompting Divisive GOP primary



Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT). (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

By Brooke Mallory
4:08 PM – Friday, February 9, 2024

With Rep. Matt Rosendale formally announcing his candidacy for the U.S. Senate on Friday, Republican voters in Montana will now have a second option in the June primary.

Rosendale (R-Mont.) will challenge GOP contender and businessman, Tim Sheehy, a former Navy SEAL, for the chance to challenge Democrat incumbent Senator Jon Tester in November. He has held the position since 2007.

Rosendale said that he’s running “against the Washington establishment, against [President] Joe Biden and [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell,” in a video announcement. He also praised Trump and expressed his loyalty to the 2024 GOP presidential front-runner.

However, Trump publicly backed Sheehy, even though he still had kind words to say about Rosendale.

“I also respect Matt Rosendale, and was very happy to Endorse him in the past – and will Endorse him again in the future should he decide to change course and run for his Congressional Seat,” Trump wrote on Truth Social. “But in this instance, Tim is the candidate who is currently best-positioned to DEFEAT Lazy Jon Tester, and Regain the Republican Majority in the United States Senate … America First Patriot Tim Sheehy has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” the former president continued.

For months, Rosendale, who lost his 2018 race against Tester, has been making insinuations about a rematch. He declared that he was “heavily considering” a candidacy in a video that was shared on social media in December. He also attacked McConnell and other Senate Republicans for “propping up” Sheehy and attempting to keep him out of the race.

“While it is truly an honor and privilege 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,” Rosendale said.

The race is now set up for a contentious and costly primary.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), the head of the influential National Republican Senatorial Committee, together with Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and Montana GOP Governor Greg Gianforte, are among the prominent Republicans who support Sheehy.

Meanwhile, the speaker of the Montana Senate, Republican Matt Regier, is among the state legislators who have endorsed Rosendale, as well as the organization Gun Owners of America (GOA).

“Today, Gun Owners of America (GOA) is excited to endorse Congressman Matt Rosendale in his campaign for the U.S. Senate. Rosendale, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2020, is an avid sportsman and champion for the Second Amendment. During his time in the House, Congressman Rosendale has repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to protecting the right to keep and bear arms without compromise, and he has been an outstanding partner with GOA’s legislative affairs team,” the GOA website reads.

Early on Thursday, Punchbowl News revealed that U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) intended to support Rosendale in the race. However, Johnson changed his mind in a matter of hours, perhaps in response to criticism from other Republicans. Later, a representative for Johnson told CNN that while the speaker will financially contribute to Rosendale’s campaign, he will not be endorsing it.

Rosendale, a devoted supporter of Trump and a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, is originally from Maryland. He voted with 147 other members of Congress to reverse the 2020 election results, and he was one of the seven House Republicans who voted last year to remove Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). He also gave a speech at an Oath Keepers pro-gun demonstration in Kalispell, Montana, in 2014.

Meanwhile, Sheehy’s ability to self-finance his campaign and his business, as well as his extensive military experience, most likely attracted him to the race. Sheehy, a native of Minnesota, retired from the Navy in 2014 and relocated to Montana. He is the founder of Bridger Aerospace, an aerial firefighting business located in Bozeman that mostly depends on government contracts.

Although Sheehy has ranted against the left’s “climate cult” and toeing the party line on climate while on the campaign trail, his corporation has positioned itself as a leader in the battle against climate change.

In a video from December, Rosendale disparaged Sheehy, claiming that he had “profited off of Biden’s Green New Deal,” presumably alluding to Bridger Aerospace’s reliance on government contracts.

 

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