Blair Miller

(Daily Montanan) Montana State Auditor Troy Downing announced Wednesday he was officially running for Montana’s 2nd Congressional District seat currently held by Rep. Matt Rosendale nearly three months after initially expressing interest in the race.

Downing, a Republican, said in August he would run for the seat if Rosendale chooses to run in the U.S. Senate race for the seat currently held by Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. Though Rosendale has not officially announced whether he will run for the Senate seat, he has long been rumored to be interested.

Both Downing and Rosendale ran in the Republican primary in 2018 for U.S. Senate, which Rosendale won, but Rosendale lost to Tester in the General Election. In that race, Downing’s past misdemeanors for using Montana hunting licenses when he was a California resident came to light, and he pleaded guilty to the charges.

Downing then ran for state auditor in 2020, winning a three-way primary and defeating Democrat Shane Morigeau by nearly 16 points in the General Election.

“I’ve created jobs in the private sector. I served our country in the military, and I have protected Montana taxpayers and families,” Downing said in a campaign announcement. “I know how to fight, I know how to win, and I’m asking Montanans to join our team. Together we can beat the Biden liberals and save the America we all love.”

Downing was a tech company founder, CEO of a storage rental business and a program manager of an insurance agency. He joined the Air Force after 9/11 and served two combat tours in Afghanistan.

In his announcement, Downing touted his work prosecuting insurance fraud and protecting older Montanans against fraud as state auditor, and his votes on public land access on the Board of Land Commissioners.

In a campaign video, Downing mostly focuses on President Joe Biden, whom he says has “been a disaster for America.” Most of the video focuses on common targets for right-wing Republicans: finishing a wall at the southern border, deporting people who enter the country illegally, LGBTQ+ issues, and ensuring access to firearms under the Second Amendment.

“We must keep the radical transgender agenda out of our classrooms, out of our military and out of women’s sports and bathrooms,” he said in the video.

Downing and former Republican lawmaker Ed Walker of Billings are the two candidates who have so far said they will run for the seat regardless of what Rosendale decides to do.

Two other Republicans have filed to run for the seat but have hinged their final decisions on Rosendale’s move: Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen and former Sidney lawmaker Joel Krautter, who now lives in Billings.

Ric Holden, another former lawmaker from Glendive, told the Montana Free Press he would run in the primary if Rosendale runs for Senate.

On the Democratic side, Helena activist Kev Hamm and Ming Cabrera are the two candidates who have so far thrown their hats in the race.