Former Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy Launches 2024 Montana Senate Run

June 27, 2023Associated Press
Tim Sheehy, founder of Bridger Aerospace and Ascent Vision, announced Tuesday, June 27, 2023, that he’ll seek the 2024 GOP nomination to challenge Montana Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. Photo courtesy of Tim Sheehy for Montana.

Tim Sheehy, founder of Bridger Aerospace and Ascent Vision, announced Tuesday, June 27, 2023, that he’ll seek the 2024 GOP nomination to challenge Montana Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. Photo courtesy of Tim Sheehy for Montana.

By MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. — Former Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy announced Tuesday he will seek the 2024 Republican nomination to challenge Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester as the Democrat tries to secure a fourth term.

Sheehy, 37, was recruited by GOP leaders eager to unseat Tester as they try to wrest control of the Senate from Democrats, who hold a slim majority and will have several vulnerable incumbents on the 2024 ballot, including Tester.

Sheehy runs an aerial firefighting company, Bridger Aerospace, which he founded near Bozeman after moving to Montana in 2014. This is his first run for public office, and he said in a telephone interview that his military service and business background will set him apart in the race.

Former Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy on Tuesday, June 27, 2023, announced his run for Montana's US Senate seat. Photo courtesy of Tim Sheehy for Montana.

“What I'm seeing now is kind of a government devoid of common sense,” he said Tuesday. “It's a lot of rhetoric, a lot of demagoguery, but not a lot of people sitting down actually trying to solve the serious problems we face as a country.”

His entry shakes up a GOP primary that was previously considered a potential battle between Montana's two U.S. representatives — Matt Rosendale and Ryan Zinke.

Zinke — also a former Navy SEAL and who served as Interior secretary under Trump — is now supporting Sheehy.

But Rosendale is still considered to be eyeing a run after losing to Tester in 2018. Rosendale aligns with the party’s extreme right wing and has been heavily backed in past elections by the conservative fundraising group Club for Growth.

Tester, a central Montana farmer viewed as a Senate moderate, won his 2018 election by four percentage points. Following his party's poor showing in Montana in 2020, Tester became the only Democrat in Montana to hold statewide office, reflecting a decade-long rise by Republicans.

Sheehy’s entrance into the contest was anticipated by Democrats, who in recent weeks issued statements criticizing the Republican as a newcomer to the state.

Montana Democratic Party spokeswoman Monica Robinson described Sheehy in a Tuesday statement as ”an out-of-state transplant recruited by Mitch McConnell and DC lobbyists.”

She added that Tester “has farm equipment that’s been in Montana longer than Tim Sheehy.”

Former Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy and family. Photo courtesy of Tim Sheehy for Montana.

Sheehy said he was born in Minnesota and moved to Montana to start Bridger Aerospace after being wounded in combat in Afghanistan.

“I didn't live here because I was fighting our nation's wars and defending America, as was my wife," he said. Carmen Sheehy is a U.S. Marine veteran and served in Afghanistan, according to the Sheehy campaign.

His platform largely is in line with national Republican priorities such as securing the southern U.S. border, opposing gun control and reducing government's role in providing health care.

The only other Montana Republican to formally enter the 2024 Senate race is Jeremy Mygland, who runs an East Helena home construction company. Mygland has raised about $85,000 since last July, Federal Election Commission campaign filings show.

Ranking Member Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., speaks during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, in Washington. Tester says he'll seek reelection to a fourth term in 2024. The Democrat's announcement on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, boosts his party's chances of holding the seat as it tries to hang on to a narrow Senate majority. AP file photo by Alex Brandon.

Tester, 66, won his three prior Senate elections by narrow margins.

Former President Donald Trump campaigned heavily on Rosendale’s behalf in 2018 as Republicans portrayed Tester as too liberal for the state and criticized him for accepting money linked to corporate lobbyists, a practice that's continued.

Tester brought in more than $9 million since his last election and had more than $7 million remaining as of March 31, campaign filings show.

Tester's campaign spent almost $20 million in 2018 race. Money from outside groups drove up overall spending in that race to more than $60 million, shattering prior records for Montana elections.

Read Next: From Military to Public Service, Johnny Joey Jones Is a Voice for Veterans

Associated Press
Associated Press

The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting, founded in 1846.

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