Blair Miller

(Daily Montanan) U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, Montana’s lone statewide elected Democrat, announced Wednesday he would seek reelection to a fourth term in 2024.

“I am running for re-election so I can keep fighting for Montanans and demand that Washington stand up for our veterans and lower costs,” Tester said in a statement from his campaign. “Montanans need a fighter holding Washington accountable, and I’m running to defend our Montana values.”

Tester’s seat is expected to be one of the major targets for Democrats who will try to hold onto their slim majority in the Senate, and for Republicans trying to regain power in the upper chamber.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee called the Montana Senate seat a “must-win” in 2024, while a spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, chaired by U.S. Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, called on Montanans to unseat him next year, calling him “Joe Biden’s favorite senator.”

Tester’s campaign pointed to a Morning Consult poll that showed Tester had a 60% approval rating among Montanans. Montana Democratic Party Chair Robyn Driscoll said Tester fights for Montana values.

“As a third-generation farmer who still farms the land my grandparents settled more than 100 years ago, I know that people in Washington don’t understand what a hard day’s work looks like or the challenges working families are facing in Montana,” Tester said in a statement.

Tester, a farmer from Big Sandy and former teacher and school board member, was a state senator from 1999 to 2006 before winning the U.S. Senate seat over incumbent Republican Conrad Burns in 2006 by just more than 3,000 votes.

He defeated Republican Denny Rehberg by about 18,000 votes in 2012, then defeated Republican Matt Rosendale, now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, by about 18,000 votes in 2018.

Tester chairs the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and sits on the Indian Affairs Committee; the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee; the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Rosendale and Congressman Ryan Zinke, the Republican former Interior Secretary, are expected to be among the Republicans vying to win the primary to face Tester next year.

Tester’s seat is expected to be one of at least eight competitive Senate races in 2024, along with seats in Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Ohio and West Virginia.

Democrats currently hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate.

The Cook Political Report rates Tester’s seat as leaning Democratic, while other political rating sites rate it as a tossup. At the end of 2022, Tester’s campaign had about $2.9 million in cash on hand, according to Federal Election Commission records.