HELENA — As U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale continues to say he’s “heavily considering” jumping into the race for U.S. Senate, the field of Republicans looking at running for his eastern district U.S. House seat keeps growing.

Montana’s official candidate filing period doesn’t open until Jan. 11, but six Republicans have filed campaign finance paperwork with the Federal Election Commission expressing interest in the race for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

Two of those Republicans are sitting statewide elected officials. State Auditor Troy Downing launched his campaign for the House last month, highlighting his time in the military, his experience as a businessman and the work he’s done in office.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen has committed to keep her campaign in an “exploratory phase” until Rosendale officially says he’s not seeking another term, but they are active on social media. Arntzen’s campaign recently touted her as “the first candidate in the race to endorse” former President Donald Trump for reelection in 2024.

The other candidates will have to find different platforms to reach voters.

Earlier this month, Joel Krautter, an attorney who lives in Billings, held a campaign kickoff event in Helena. His guest, appearing by video, was former Republican Gov. Marc Racicot, who called him a man of character who would be able to work together with others for the benefit of Montana.

“He is the kind of a return, in a way, to the traditional values that were demonstrated by candidates in the past, like Mike Mansfield or Jeannette Rankin – and that, I think, is unusual in this day and age,” Racicot told MTN. “But I think the people of this country, and I know in Montana are hoping for a return to politics to demonstrate some sanity and some capacity to get things done on their behalf.”

Krautter, 35, plans to run for Congress regardless of Rosendale’s decision, saying he wants to represent the next generation of leaders. He started practicing law in Sidney in 2014. As a managing partner of his law firm, he moved to Billings last year. He was elected to the state House in 2018, where he was linked to the “Solutions Caucus” – a more moderate GOP faction in the Legislature. He then lost a Republican primary for reelection in 2020.

Racicot has had some notable disagreements with GOP leaders in recent years, and he supported independent candidate Gary Buchanan over Rosendale for the eastern district seat in the 2022 election. He also received a rebuke from the state Republican Party Executive Committee for endorsing other candidates over GOP nominees. Still, Racicot and Krautter both told MTN they believe many voters in the Republican primary will be looking for an alternative to polarized politics.

“I do believe that there are people looking for a new generation of leadership and that want to turn a page on the division and the anger that we're seeing in Washington, because it's not doing anything to balance our federal budget, to secure the border or to help Montana agriculture and small businesses,” said Krautter.

Ric Holden is a rancher from Dawson County, near Glendive, who announced his own candidacy for the U.S. House in September. It’s his first foray into politics since he served eight years in the Montana Senate, from 1995 to 2002.

“We need to turn the economy around, we need to once again become energy independent, we need to do everything that we can so that Eastern Montana's prosperous again – and for us, that means we need to drill oil, pump oil, we need to use our coal reserves and we need to generate some electricity with the natural resources that we got,” he said.

Holden and his family raise sheep, cattle, alfalfa, corn and grain crops. In addition, he works as an insurance adjuster. He says he wants to make sure agricultural producers in Montana have a voice in Washington, D.C., and one of his main goals if elected would be to secure a place on an agriculture committee. He also identified border security and addressing inflation as priorities.

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