- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Sen. Jon Tester of Montana announced Wednesday he is running for reelection in what is shaping up to be one of the most watched races of the 2024 election cycle.

For Democrats, Mr. Tester’s decision is welcome news. It offers a jolt of hope that they can defend the seat in the deep-red state that former President Donald Trump carried by 17 points in 2020.

“It’s official,” Mr. Tester said on social media. “I’m running for reelection.”

“Montanans need a fighter that will hold our government accountable and demand Washington stand up for veterans and lower costs for families,” the 66-year-old said. “I will always fight to defend our Montana values.”

Senate Democrats exceeded expectations in the 2022 midterm elections by pulling out victories in battleground states such as Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

They emerged with a slim 51-49 seat majority in the Senate, benefiting from the fact the chamber’s three independents — Sens. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, Angus King of Maine and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — caucus with Democrats.

Mr. Tester, a farmer, has held his seat since 2007. He has embraced the “moderate” label.

He also has proved to be a key vote for President Biden and the Democrats. Mr. Tester has helped advance the party’s priorities in the thinly divided chamber — opening him up to criticism from Republicans, who say he is too liberal for his state and his voting record will cost him.

Responding to the announcement, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, issued an email blast with a photograph of Mr. Tester laughing and shaking Mr. Biden’s hand at the State of the Union address.

“The Tester-Biden agenda has given Montanans rising crime, higher taxes, and an open southern border that is flooding communities with deadly fentanyl,” said NRC spokesperson Maggie Abboud. “Montanans are going to send Joe Biden’s favorite Senator packing in 2024.”

The NRSC has already been running attack ads against Mr. Tester and other vulnerable Democrats on Medicare and Social Security.

Democrats face a tough electoral landscape in the 2024 election. There are 20 Democratic-controlled seats up for grabs, compared to 11 Republican-controlled seats.

The three independents also are up for reelection. That latter group notably includes Ms. Sinema. She switched her party affiliation to independent after the fall election and has drawn a challenge from Rep. Ruben Gallego, a progressive Democrat.

Ms. Sinema has not indicated whether she plans to run for reelection, putting her in the same boat as Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who is recovering from prostate cancer surgery.

Democrats also are defending vulnerable seats in Michigan, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Democrats breathed a sigh of relief last month after Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said he plans to run for a third term.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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