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Sheehy announces U.S. Senate bid

Posted at 6:33 AM, Jun 27, 2023

HELENA — Montana’s U.S. Senate race is going to be one of the most closely watched in the country in 2024, and it’s already beginning to heat up.

On Tuesday, Tim Sheehy, a Gallatin County businessman and Navy veteran, officially joined the Republican field challenging Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. It followed weeks of speculation that he was preparing to jump into the race.

“I think whether I was on the battlefield or in business, being at the right place at the right time to have maximum impact is critical,” he told MTN. “For me, I always want to do what's right for the country and what's right for our community, and clearly a lot of people think that I’m the right candidate for this race, so we're here to get the job done.”

Sheehy is founder, CEO and an active pilot with Bridger Aerospace, an aerial firefighting company based in Belgrade. He also owns Little Belt Cattle Company, which includes a ranch near Martinsdale. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan and other deployments during ten years of active Navy service, including time as a SEAL Team officer.

Sheehy said he first became familiar with Montana in the military, while doing mountain training in the state. He and his wife, also a veteran, settled in the state in 2014, after he left active duty.

This is Sheehy’s first time running for office. He told MTN he began thinking seriously about getting involved in politics after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and subsequent Taliban victory.

“It was just incredibly frustrating, sad and heart-wrenching to see what was happening after the sacrifices so many of us had made for so many years,” he said. “And that day was the first time I ever considered potentially running for office.”

Sheehy said he plans to campaign on issues like strengthening the economy, securing the southern border and protecting parents’ rights in education. In his campaign announcement, he criticized Tester and what he called “the Democratic Party’s agenda of inflation, open borders, criminals over cops, drugs and violence in our communities, and a woke culture impacting our classrooms and military bases.”

Montana’s other U.S. senator, Sen. Steve Daines, is chairing the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the main campaign organization for Senate Republicans. Sheehy confirmed to MTN that Daines asked him to consider getting into the race, though he said he also received encouragement from fellow veterans and people he knows in Montana.

Daines praised Sheehy in a statement released by the NRSC Tuesday.

“Tim Sheehy is a decorated veteran, successful businessman, and a great Montanan,” he said. “I could not be happier that he has decided to enter the Montana Senate race.”

Sheehy may not be the last notable Republican to enter the race. A Politico article published last week says U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale is also considering entering the race against Tester. Rosendale was the Republican nominee for Senate in 2018, when he lost to Tester by about 3 percentage points.

While Rosendale hasn’t officially joined the Senate race, he responded to Sheehy’s announcement Tuesday with two posts on Twitter.

“Congratulations to Mitch McConnell and the party bosses on getting their chosen candidate,” he said. “Now Washington has two candidates - Tim Sheehy and Jon Tester - who will protect the DC cartel. Unfortunately for them, Montanans don’t take orders from Washington. I believe that Montanans are tired of business as usual and will reject the McConnell-Biden Establishment.”

Sheehy told MTN he’s prepared for however the race develops.

“I've got no problem with Matt – I've actually hosted him in my house for fundraisers,” he said. “He's doing a great job in the House, and my understanding is that's the job he's been elected to do. So if he decides to continue to do that, best of luck to him, and we'll see what happens.”

The Montana Democratic Party also released a statement in response to Sheehy’s announcement.

“Jon Tester has farm equipment that’s been in Montana longer than Tim Sheehy,” said Monica Robinson, a senior communications advisor with the party. “The last thing Montanans want in a senator is an out-of-state transplant recruited by Mitch McConnell and DC lobbyists. The tough questions Tim Sheehy is facing are just beginning.”

Sheehy isn’t the only Republican who’s announced a Senate campaign. Jeremy Mygland, a business owner and political newcomer from East Helena, filed campaign finance paperwork with the Federal Election Commission in July 2022. Mygland says he’s running as an outsider and a native of the state, and that everyday Montanans need more representation.

“It’s time to send blue-collar people to Washington, D.C., because we’re the ones who pay the price,” he said.

There’s still a long way to go in this race. Candidates won’t officially file for the ballot until January, and the primary is nearly a full year away – June 4, 2024.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is an updated version of this article. The original post is below.


Tim Sheehy, a Gallatin County businessman and Navy veteran, has officially announced he's joining the Republican race against U.S. Sen. Jon Tester.

“My life has been shaped by my service to our country and our community,” he said in a statement released Tuesday. “My commitment to job creation here in Montana has been steadfast across multiple industries, and I am a firm believer in the power of conservative values and the strength of the American individual. I’ve proudly fought for our country to defend our freedoms, and I’m once again answering the call to serve. I will fight to bring real leadership to Washington to save our country and protect our Montana way of life.”

Sheehy criticized Tester and what he called “the Democratic Party’s agenda of inflation, open borders, criminals over cops, drugs and violence in our communities, and a woke culture impacting our classrooms and military bases.”

Sheehy is the founder and CEO of Bridger Aerospace, an aerial firefighting company based in Belgrade. He previously served as a Navy SEAL officer.

Montana's other U.S. senator, Sen. Steve Daines, is chairing the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the main campaign organization for Senate Republicans. National media reports have indicated he was encouraging Sheehy to enter the race.

“Tim Sheehy is a decorated veteran, successful businessman, and a great Montanan,” Daines said in a statement released by the NRSC Tuesday. “I could not be happier that he has decided to enter the Montana Senate race.”

A Politico article published last week says U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale is also considering entering the race against Tester. Rosendale was the Republican nominee for Senate in 2018, when he lost to Tester by about 3 percentage points.

Montana's Senate race is expected to be one of the most closely watched and hotly contested in the U.S. in 2024.