A former member of the Montana House of Representatives and Missoula fire chief on Thursday announced his plans to file for the state Senate seat formerly held by Bryce Bennett, who announced his plans to resign this month to pursue other opportunities.
Tom Steenberg, who represented portions of Bennett’s Senate district as a member of the House, plans to file his official candidacy with the elections office in the coming days.
Current state Rep. Andrea Olsen also plans to file for the seat.
“After helping pass Medicaid expansion, the CSKT water compact, and dark money reform in 2015, I decided to step aside to enjoy retirement with my wife, Mary, and let a new generation of progressive leaders step forward.” Steenberg said in a statement.
However, he added, the last legislative session changed his mind about retirement.
“As I watched this last session, and the disgusting attacks on our right to vote, access to abortion, a clean environment, LGBTQ+ rights and so much of what makes Montana special, I couldn’t help but think that I needed to step back up and use my experience to effectively push back,” he said.
Prior to his service in politics, Steenberg served as chief of the Missoula Fire Department.
Bennett, who resigned the seat to serve as the new project director for Vote Early Day, is backing Steenberg’s candidacy.
“(Steenberg) and I were roommates for two sessions and I got to see his hard work on the issues that matter to Missoulians up close,” Bennett said. “Despite serving in the minority for all the time he was in the Legislature, he was able to work across the aisle to get things done. He knows how to stand up for our values and get legislation across the finish line. That’s why we need him in Helena.”
Olsen, who currently represents House District 100 in Missoula, also said she plans to pursue the seat.
“Dear Friends, Family, Neighbors, Constituents, and all of our dear Missoula County, I am writing to let you know I am running to represent Montana SD50 in 2022, and I am applying to fulfill the rest of the term of our dear Senator Bryce Bennett, who has resigned his seat,” Olsen posted on Facebook.