Rehberg, Romney Win in Montana GOP Primary

By Beacon Staff

BILLINGS – Congressman Denny Rehberg sailed past token opposition to claim the Republican U.S Senate nomination in Montana Tuesday. He now turns his focus to the general election battle against incumbent Democrat Jon Tester.

In the presidential primary, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney swept to an easy victory in the Treasure State, further cementing his lock on the GOP nomination. Romney led Ron Paul 70-14 percent with 23 percent of the projected vote counted. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich split remaining votes.

President Barack Obama faced no opposition for the Democratic nomination.

Rehberg led 77-23 percent over Dennis Teske, a farmer from Terry in eastern Montana.

“The general election presents a very clear contrast for voters,” Rehberg said in a statement Tuesday evening. “In the senate, I will provide an important check and balance against the Obama-Tester agenda.”

After six terms in the House, the 56-year-old Rehberg — a real estate developer and rancher from Billings — passed up what would have been an all-but-certain seventh term for the chance to unseat Tester. The race is being closely watched nationally as one that could potentially tip the balance of power in the Senate toward the GOP.

Tester, a farmer from Big Sandy, faced no primary opposition as he seeks a second term.

Tester narrowly won election six years ago over GOP incumbent Conrad Burns, and Republicans are eager to take back the seat.

“This race is between a farmer who holds himself accountable to Montana, and someone who’s made some pretty irresponsible decisions during his 12 years in Congress,” Tester said in a statement.

Rehberg has promoted his efforts to cut spending and attempted to link Tester with what the Republican calls the failed policies of President Barack Obama.

Tester has touted his work on veterans’ issues and attacked Rehberg as a longtime politician with little to show in the way of lasting accomplishments.

Heading into the general election, Tester had raised about $6.8 million with just over $4 million in cash on hand through May 16, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Rehberg had raised almost $5 million, with $2.6 million in cash on hand in the same period.

The candidates’ financial reports do not cover spending by outside interest groups expected to take a keen interest in the race.

Romney’s easy victory came alongside wins in New Jersey, South Dakota, New Mexico and California, adding to a delegate total that already exceeds the number he needed to win the nomination.

The results of Tuesday’s Montana GOP presidential primary are non-binding. Some 23 delegates to the GOP national convention will be picked at the state Republican party convention in Missoula on June 16.

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