Bozeman Exec Announces Senate Bid Against Tester

By Beacon Staff

BOZEMAN – A Bozeman businessman has announced he’ll run as a Republican in 2012 for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Jon Tester.

Steve Daines, 48, was the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor in 2008.

KTVM reports about 400 people gathered for his announcement Saturday in Bozeman. There, Daines criticized Tester as an ally of President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in helping pass the disputed health care overhaul. Daines vowed to work to repeal the law.

“Jon Tester followed Obama, followed Harry Reid in supporting Obama-care,” he told supporters.

Daines is a vice president of RightNow Technologies, a Bozeman-based customer-support software company with clients that include Match.com, an online dating service, as well as Sony and TiVo.

Prior to Saturday’s announcement, Democrats had accused Daines of campaigning illegally for Tester’s seat.

In a complaint filed with the Federal Elections Commission last week, Democrats said Daines ran an illegal shadow campaign using soft money from a Colorado political action committee called Common Sense Issues.

Daines maintains he wasn’t officially a candidate. On Saturday, he told the Bozeman Chronicle he made his final decision to run about three weeks ago.

In a statement released Saturday afternoon, Montana Democratic Party spokesman Martin Kidston underscored the charges of improper campaigning and defended Tester’s record.

“Montanans expect Steve Daines to follow election laws despite his history with secret campaigns and out-of-state organizations,” Kidston said. “We look forward to comparing his record of public service to that of Jon’s.”

Kidston defended Tester as a farmer who has worked to create jobs, cut spending and defend Montana’s military veterans.

In 2008, Daines ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor on the ticket with state Sen. Roy Brown against Democratic Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger, who won easily.

Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., is also considered a possible candidate for Tester’s Senate seat. Daines declined to elaborate how a Rehberg run would affect his own candidacy, saying only it was “going to be Denny’s decision.”