John Riley

HELENA (KPAX) — U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale officially entered the race for the U.S. Senate on Friday, filing paperwork with the Montana Secretary of State.

The announcement sets up a Republican primary showdown to see who can secure the party’s nomination to challenge Democrat U.S. Sen. Jon Tester.

Rosendale has long been suspected of having plans to enter the Senate race. A half dozen Republican candidates had filed to run for the congressman’s current seat before his announcement to enter the Senate race.

The path to the GOP nomination will not be easy for the two-term U.S. Representative and former Montana State Auditor.

Among the Republican candidates challenging Tester is Gallatin County businessman and Navy veteran Tim Sheehy. Sheehy has the backing of the National Republican Senatorial Committee headed by Montana U.S. Sen. Steve Daines. His campaign has raised a total of $5.3 million since launching, and he has had a significant presence over the air for months with political ads.

Former Montana Secretary of State and Public Service Commissioner Brad Johnson is also running for the Republican nomination for Senate. Johnson, who told MTN when he announced his campaign that he expected to be significantly outspent in the GOP primary, brought in just over $22,000 during the last quarter.

Rosendale previously squared off against Tester, a two-term incumbent at the time, in 2018 for the U.S. Senate seat. After the primary, Rosendale was endorsed by then-President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Trump visited Montana four times to campaign for Rosendale and Pence visited three times.

Tester won 50.3% of the vote in the 2018 general election and Rosendale received 46.8% of the vote.

Daines-backed Sheehy is seen by the NRSC as the better chance of unseating the now three-term incumbent Tester, as Sheehy can help personally fund his campaign and has no voting record to scrutinize.

Former President Trump has not yet endorsed a candidate for the 2024 Montana U.S. Senate.