Republican Tim Sheehy wins Montana Senate primary: NPR

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tim Sheehy speaks to a crowd at a fundraising event featuring Donald Trump Jr., in Missoula, Mont., April 28.

Shaylee Ragar/Montana Public Radio


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Shaylee Ragar/Montana Public Radio

Republican Tim Sheehy won his party’s nomination Tuesday to run for Montana’s U.S. Senate seat, according to an Associated Press race call.

Sheehy, a former Navy Seal and entrepreneur, is a political newcomer taking on the incumbent Democratic senator. Jon Tester in November. He addressed his lack of legislative experience head-on during a dinner with Montana Republicans earlier this year.

“I have been criticized by many people, some in this room [who ask]’Who the hell is this guy?’ He has never been in office before. “What does he think he’s doing by running for Senate?” “he said.

He told Republicans at the dinner that he would need broad support to win this fall.

“To sum it up, I’m here because I love this country, I fought for this country, I lost friends for this country, my wife fought for this country. Our country is in great danger. We are at a crossroads in the country,” Sheehy said.

Sheehy enjoys the support of the Republican establishment and his party’s nomination. But now he has to convince enough Montanans that he’s the right person for the job instead of a three-term incumbent. Tester has held public office for more than two decades and has led Sheehy so far by a three-to-one margin, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

At stake in the general election include the political balance of the U.S. Senate and whether Republicans can control all state offices in Montana.

Sheehy is supported by the Republican senator from Montana. Steve Daines and is endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Trump’s son, Don Trump Jr., rallied behind Sheehy and other Republican candidates at a recent fundraiser in Missoula, Montana. He said Sheehy was the party’s best chance to take control of the Senate.

“If we don’t do it now, it’s going to be a decade before we have a chance, meaning a chance where there’s like a red state with a blue senator up for election, that we can actually make gains, for a decade,” Trump Jr. said.

Who is Tim Sheehy?

Sheehy lives just outside Bozeman with his wife Carmen, a Marine Corps veteran, and their four children. He received the Bronze Star Medal for valor and the Purple Heart while in the Army. Sheehy is originally from Minnesota but moved to Montana in 2014 and founded two companies focused on aerial firefighting and drone technology. In 2020, he purchased land along the Little Belt Mountains in central Montana and started a 20,000-acre cattle ranch with two partners.

Sheehy says he decided to enter politics after the Biden administration’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. The Biden White House said it was constrained by the previous administration and blamed Trump for the lack of of preparation.

“We gave up our 20s to fight for this country. And Biden literally erased everything and didn’t even say sorry,” Sheehy said. “And I knew right away I had to get involved.”

Sheehy says his lack of political experience is a strength. If he wins, he will oust a longtime senator who chairs the Veterans Affairs Committee as well as the Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee. But Sheehy pointed to Congress’s low approval rating, which Gallup estimates at 13% in May 2024.

“So obviously, whatever we’re doing there, it’s not working very well. The American people do not have confidence in this organization. So continuing to send the same people back there, over and over again, is probably not the right way to fix America right now. »

Sheehy’s campaign platform includes proposals to reduce the federal budget by reducing executive power. He suggested that the U.S. Departments of Education and Homeland Security could be abolished, arguing that they would add additional bureaucracy to the services that states and local communities should provide.

“We have a blended school model at home with our kids,” he said. “They attend a cooperative with other faith-based farming families. The federal government doesn’t give us a playbook saying teach your kids this. We don’t need it.

Sheehy said it could work for other communities.

Sheehy called on the United States to complete Trump’s southern border wall, saying it must be sealed to prevent illegal immigration. He also criticized the passage of a $95 billion foreign aid package supported by a majority of Republican senators. And he says the United States has been trying too hard in its foreign policy.

Sheehy faces obstacles including name recognition and distrust

Even though Sheehy has the party’s top brass on his side, he still has to convince Montanans, including some Republicans, that he’s right for the job.

Nathaniel Palmer is a conservative-leaning voter and U.S. Army veteran from Billings. He said he was dissatisfied with Tester’s work.

“So someone new would probably be better,” Palmer said. The problem for Palmer, he says, is that he doesn’t know much about Sheehy, which currently puts the Republican candidate at a disadvantage in terms of notoriety.

And he faces other obstacles as well.

THE Washington Post first reported that Sheehy was cited in 2015 for accidentally firing a gun in Glacier National Park that left a bullet in his arm. The story raised questions, as Sheehy had written in his memoir about aerial firefighting and said on the campaign trail that the bullet in his arm was from his days of active combat.

Sheehy insists he fell while hiking and no weapons were involved; he said he mentioned an old gunshot wound while seeking treatment at a local hospital. And he says he then lied to a Glacier National Park ranger about the bullet’s origin to protect his platoon mates from an investigation into a friendly fire incident.

Sheehy’s timeline of events does not match a park ranger’s account from 2015, which was detailed in a summary released recently by the National Park Service. However, he resisted releasing medical records that could indicate when he was shot, saying he shouldn’t have to do so if the tester didn’t.

“It’s pretty ridiculous that after serving my country and being injured overseas, I’m required to submit medical records. I ran and got an x-ray to prove to Washington Post after they tried to convince me in the court of public opinion that I was a fake veteran of stolen valor. So I think it’s pretty insulting and ridiculous,” Sheehy said.

THE Washington Post reported that the x-ray was inconclusive in determining when the injury occurred. Sheehy’s Bronze Star and Purple Heart are not related to the injury and are not in question. Questions about the gunshot wound did not arise until the release of the National Park Service citation.

In addition to making headlines for the gunshot wound, Sheehy has faced some distrust within his own party.

That includes Al Olszewski, a surgeon and former state legislator who chairs the Flathead County Republican Central Committee. He posted a video on Facebook with a “call to action” after party leaders endorsed Sheehy in the Senate race over Rep. Matt Rosendale, who has since dropped out.

“Respectfully refuse and oppose our party leaders and leaders who continue to impose their demands and favored candidates on us,” Olszewski said.

The GOP primary included former Secretary of State and Civil Service Commissioner Brad Johnson.

When he announced his candidacy, Johnson said it was a David versus Goliath competition. He said he believes Sheehy won the party’s support for one reason.

“It had nothing to do with politics, experience or electability – it had to do with money. And that to me is the root of the problem we have with the system today,” Johnson said.

Millions more in outside spending on the race are expected to flow into Montana in the coming months.

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