Tim Sheehy Wins G.O.P. Nod to Challenge Tester for Senate in Montana

Tim Sheehy, a businessman and former Navy SEAL, won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Montana on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press, setting him up for a November showdown against Senator Jon Tester, the Democratic incumbent.

With 27 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Sheehy had 75.5 percent, well ahead of his lesser-known opponents. Brad Johnson, Montana’s former secretary of state, had 18 percent of the vote, and Charles Walkingchild had 6.5 percent.

The Republican primary was essentially a foregone conclusion since February, when Representative Matt Rosendale abruptly exited the race — less than a week after he entered it — citing former President Donald J. Trump’s endorsement of Mr. Sheehy. Mr. Rosendale, a right-wing hard-liner, had been viewed as the only serious challenger to Mr. Sheehy, for whom the Republican establishment had worked to clear the field. His victory is a boon for Republicans as they work to recapture control of the Senate, competing on a favorable map in which a number of vulnerable Democrats face tough re-election battles.

“Tim Sheehy is a strong conservative, an American hero and a successful businessman who will bring an outsider’s perspective to a broken Washington,” said Senator Steve Daines, the Montana Republican who leads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which works to elect Republicans to the Senate. “The clearest path to a Republican Senate majority runs through Montana.”

Mr. Sheehy will face a formidable opponent in Mr. Tester, a popular incumbent who has survived past challenges in his ruby-red state by leaning on his background as a third-generation Montana farmer and his reputation of bipartisanship. Recent polls have suggested a tight race, and the nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates Montana a “tossup.” Mr. Tester officially captured the Democratic nomination on Tuesday.

Mr. Tester has a cash advantage; he raised $4.1 million between April 1 and May 15, according to recent financial filings, and his campaign has $11.7 million cash on hand. Mr. Sheehy’s campaign raised $2.1 million in the same period — including $600,000 the candidate lent himself — and had $2.2 million cash on hand.

But Republicans believe Mr. Tester, first elected in 2006, is especially vulnerable this election. After more than 17 years in Washington, they think his rural, working-class narrative has worn thin with Montanan voters, and argue he has been a reliable vote for laws signed by President Biden, who is unpopular with the state’s voters. They plan to pin the border crisis and the rising costs of living in Montana on Mr. Biden and, by extension, Mr. Tester.

Democrats have countered with attacks on Mr. Sheehy’s biography. As a wealthy businessman who grew up in Minnesota and moved to Montana a decade ago, they say he epitomizes a trend of rich transplants moving to the state and driving up housing prices, which has infuriated longtime residents. (Mr. Sheehy, who runs an aerial firefighting company and owns a stake in a cattle ranch, made his wealth after moving to the state.)

They have also poked holes in his back story, pointing especially to lingering questions over how he sustained a gunshot wound that he has said came from his time in Afghanistan.

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