Darrell Ehrlick

(Daily Montanan) In the already crowded field of Republican candidates, a familiar name has entered the race for Montana’s eastern Congressional seat.

Former Congressman and Montana lieutenant governor Denny Rehberg announced Wednesday that he’s running for the seat currently held by fellow Republican Matt Rosendale.

Rehberg exited politics after unsuccessfully challenging Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, in what was then Tester’s first re-election bid to the United States Senate in 2012.

Rehberg, 68, from Billings, has dabbled in a number of things from raising exotic goats to real estate development to fast food. His first introduction to politics was as a staffer for then-Congressman Ron Marlenee.

In a press release, Rehberg said he’s running because the Joe Biden presidency threatens to leave America unrecognizable to him. That release said, in part:

“Joe Biden is making America unrecognizable — and I want our country back…I want to return to public service because I am worried about future generations of Montanans. The number one question people ask me is: Why are you running for Congress again? It’s a simple one-word answer: Grandkids — I want to ensure there is a country left for our grandkids.”

Rehberg’s tenure was tarnished, in part, due to a boating incident on Flathead Lake in which a state Sen. Greg Barkus was piloting a boat while intoxicated and crashed on the rocks, leading to four people on the boat being injured, including Rehberg, who sustained broken ribs, a fractured ankle and broken eye socket. Barkus was traveling too fast, according to the police reports, and had a blood alcohol content of more than twice the legal limit.

Rosendale, who has served two terms in the U.S. House, earlier announced a bid to challenge Tester in the primary, where Rosendale would face off against political newcomer Tim Sheehy.  Sheehy was handpicked by Sen. Steve Daines, Montana’s junior Senator who is also the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Abruptly last week, however, Rosendale announced he was dropping his bid for the Senate because of fundraising concerns and because former Republican President Donald Trump had endorsed Sheehy over Rosendale, who has been an ardent supporter of the embattled former president. Trump is also the current GOP front-runner for the 2024 presidential nomination.

Rosendale said last week that he was taking time to consult with his family about his next steps, leaving it uncertain whether he would seek a third term in the U.S. House.

Calls to the Matt For Montana campaign went unanswered on Wednesday when the Daily Montana reached out to it.

Should Rosendale decide to enter the race to keep his position, Trump said he would endorse him, but the Glendive Republican faces competition from within the GOP from more than Rehberg who held the seat from 2001-2013, serving six terms.

In addition to Rehberg, Ric Holden, who served in the Montana Legislature from Glendive from 1994 through 2002 has announced his bid. Former Montana lawmaker Joel Krautter has announced he’s running for the position. Current State Auditor Troy Downing is running for the office, as is current Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen, who has served two terms as the Treasure State’s top educator. Arntzen is prohibited by term limits for running for superintendent again.

On the Democrats’ side, Billings resident Ming Cabrera has announced he’s a candidate, as has Kev Hamm of Helena.