Blair Miller

(Daily Montana) Republican Congressman Matt Rosendale said Friday he will not seek re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives – another twist in a two-month saga in which the eastern Montana representative has announced his run, and departure, in two federal races.

Rosendale announced his decision to drop out of the 2nd Congressional District race on X, formerly known as Twitter, saying that a rumor that has spread since he dropped his Senate bid – which has not been substantiated – about his personal life has made it impossible for him to focus on his work.

“Since that [U.S. House] announcement, I have been forced that have law enforcement visit my children because of a death threat against me and false and defamatory rumors against me and my family. This has taken a serious toll on me, and my family. Additionally, it has caused a serious disruption to the election of the next representative for MT-02,” Rosendale said in the statement.

“To me, public service has truly always been about serving, not titles or positions of power. The current attacks have made it impossible for me to focus on my work to serve you,” Rosendale continued. “So, in the best interest of my family and the community, I am withdrawing from the House race and will not be seeking office. It has been my honor to serve you and may God bless each and every one of you.”

The decision to step away from public office after this year follows a rollercoaster of a past year for Rosendale, 63, who has served in the Montana state House and Senate, as the state auditor, and then as a congressman from Montana since 2021.

He raised his profile last year as a member of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, successfully ousting former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-California, in an attempt to put a leader in place who would not cut deals with Democrats or the Biden White House, particularly on spending bills.

He for months teased a run for U.S. Senate, a seat he ran for and lost in 2018 to Sen. Jon Tester, but Sen. Steve Daines, leading the National Republican Senatorial Committee, had picked Bozeman businessman Tim Sheehy as the Republican that leadership wanted for the race and urged Rosendale not to run, Rosendale has said.

But after a fundraising tour across Montana with Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, in January, Rosendale said he had heard from enough supporters to move forward with a Senate run.

He launched his bid in the primary against Sheehy on Feb. 9, but hours later, former President Donald Trump endorsed Sheehy – an endorsement Rosendale had long sought if he were to run for Senate – but Trump said he would endorse Rosendale in a House re-election bid.

Just six days later, Rosendale said he was dropping out of the Senate race and considering his next moves after speaking with Daines earlier in the week. Rosendale at the time said Trump’s endorsement in the Senate race and his own lack of campaign money were to blame for the abrupt exit.

But in the days afterward, rumors swirled in Montana and in Washington, D.C., political circles about Rosendale having a possible affair, and former North Dakota Democratic U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp threw gas on the rumor and put it into the public sphere when she mentioned it on a podcast.

The Daily Montanan has been unable to substantiate any part of the rumor. Rosendale’s lawyer also threatened Heitkamp with a cease-and-desist letter and further legal action, but has so far not filed any lawsuit.

For two weeks, there were questions about whether Rosendale would even seek re-election to his current House seat, as more than 10 other candidates have declared their candidacy, but he announced his re-election bid Feb. 28 and endorsed Sheehy in the Senate race.

“Over the last few days, I have been humbled by the outpouring of support I have received to run for Montana’s 2nd Congressional District so we can continue our work to cut spending, secure the border, and restore America’s energy dominance,” Rosendale said in a statement at the time. “At the urging of my family, friends, constituents, and President Trump, I announce my intention to seek re-election.”

In a statement Friday afternoon, Daines thanked Rosendale for his service to Montana and said he only hopes the best for Rosendale as he gets to spend time with his family.

“During his time in public service, he has been a strong advocate for fiscal responsibility, the Second Amendment and pushing back against federal overreach,” Daines said. “I thank him for his service and wish him well as he gets to spend more time with his wife Jean and their grandchildren.”

Rosendale said Friday that some of the other Republicans in the 2nd Congressional District field had urged him to run for re-election, as Rosendale has broad name recognition and the support of Montana Republicans more aligned with his right-wing values. He also won the seat in 2022 by more than 70,000 votes over the runner up.

As of Friday, five other Republicans had registered their candidacy for the 2nd Congressional District primary with the Secretary of State’s Office ahead of Monday’s 5 p.m. filing deadline. Several others, including current State Auditor Troy Downing and former Congressman Denny Rehberg, have announced their candidacies and filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Rosendale in his statement Friday called it an “honor and privilege” to serve Montana in public service for 14 years, and again said that he believes the power structure in Washington – which he often refers to as the “uniparty” – puts pressure on outspoken politicians like himself.

“When I took on the task of running for Congress, I knew, as many of you do, that the system is severely broken and badly in need of reforms,” Rosendale said. “Unfortunately, there is immense pressure from those who benefit from the current structure to keep things as they are. And the limited few of us who are willing to try and force true reforms are subject to severe retribution.”