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 re-election as a 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 50-49 edge in the Senate. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) switched her party affiliation from Democrat to Independent at the end of last year.
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.”