Montana Lawmakers Urge Rosendale to Enter 2024 U.S. Senate Race, Challenging GOP-Backed Sheehy

A bloc of 37 conservative state legislators lauded Rosendale as a “courageous” antidote to the “bureaucratic party establishment” in Washington

By Denali Sagner
U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale speaks during a Glacier Country Pachyderm Club's meeting. Beacon file photo

A coalition of 37 conservative state lawmakers on Thursday released a letter of support urging U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale to enter Montana’s 2024 U.S. Senate race, painting Rosendale as a populist challenger to the Washington, D.C. establishment, and the candidate best positioned to unseat Montana’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester.

“To challenge this status quo, we need a courageous figure in D.C. Someone unafraid to defy the Mitch McConnell establishment, demand change, and restore Congress to the principles that shaped this great nation. It is insufficient to merely promise change; the demonstration of real action matters,” the letter, which was distributed by Speaker of the Montana House of Representatives Matt Regier, R-Kalispell, said.

Rosendale currently represents the state’s second U.S. House district, which encompasses the eastern part of the state, including Great Falls, Helena and Billings.  

Though he has yet to officially announce a run for Senate, Rosendale has told D.C. lawmakers that he plans to challenges Tester, according to reporting by POLITICO. Rosendale lost to Tester in a 2018 run for Senate, during which Rosendale garnered 46.8% of the vote to Tester’s 50.3%.

In praising Rosendale, the Montana Republicans lauded the representative’s role in delaying the election of U.S. Rep Kevin McCarthy as House Speaker earlier this year. In their letter, the bloc of conservatives called the protest against McCarthy “an unwelcome action in the view of D.C. insiders but essential to restore democratic representation.”

Rosendale is one of 45 members of the House Freedom Caucus, a conservative congressional bloc that instigated the fight over McCarthy’s speakership, and has wielded its growing membership to obstruct negotiations and push the party on a number of policy areas in recent months.

“Montana, as well as America, is starving for politicians with a backbone,” Regier told the Beacon. “I think we’re tired of invertebrate politicians, and Matt Rosendale has a proven backbone.”

Upon entering the Senate race, Rosendale would face a primary against Tim Sheehy, a former Navy SEAL and the C.E.O. of Bozeman-based aerial firefighting company Bridger Aerospace. Sheehy has been endorsed by Gov. Greg Gianforte, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the body charged with electing Republicans to the U.S. Senate, and U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, who was previously thought to be a contender for the Senate race.

In their endorsement of Rosendale, Montana’s conservative politicians characterized Sheehy as a member of the “establishment” who is far removed from the concerns of everyday Montanans.

“Tim Sheehy is kind of cut from the same cloth as Daines and Gianforte — the Boz Angeles group,” state Rep. Tanner Smith, R-Lakeside, said, referencing the unsavory nickname given to Bozeman after the city saw an explosion of wealthy, out-of-state residents and urban growth in recent years. 

“They don’t always have the best interests of Montanans in mind,” Smith added.

Smith, a freshman legislator in the Montana House of Representatives, announced his candidacy for the governorship in June, setting up a likely challenge with the incumbent Gianforte. According to Smith, Montanans are trending increasingly conservative in their politics and will be unlikely to vote for wealthy, establishments politicians like Gianforte and Sheehy.

“That’s why, when it’s all said and done, Matt Rosendale will win, and I will win the governorship in 2024,” Smith said. “We need to double down on conservatism now.”

Regier said that while “Tim [Sheehy] seems like a very nice guy, there’s just a question mark” on his political positions.

In the letter sent by Regier, lawmakers praised Rosendale’s stance on “controlling spending and taxes, ending the Ukraine War, confronting the trans-ideology that threatens traditional family values, and halting the growing influence of climate corporatism.”

A number of Flathead Valley lawmakers signed the letter, including Rep. Terry Falk, R-Kalispell, Rep. Braxton Mitchell, R-Columbia Falls, Sen. Mark Noland, R-Bigfork, Sen. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell and Rep. Amy Regier, R-Kalispell.

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