Another Republican has jumped into the pool of those vying to run against U.S. Sen. Jon Tester next fall.
Ronald Murray, of Belgrade, filed his paperwork with the Federal Election Commission earlier this month. Murray previously ran for a state House seat and lost in the primary. He later settled with the Commissioner of Political Practices after an investigation over claims of coordinating with a national anti-union group.
“The number of people that will be getting into this primary, it shows there is a lot of concern for what is already happening in our Senate,” Murray said Friday. “Montanans are going to have a real chance to meet a lot of really good people and a chance to speak their mind.”
So far candidates that have announced they're seeking the seat include Kalispell state lawmaker Albert Olszewski, Scott Roy McLean of Missoula and Troy Downing of Big Sky.
Other names that have been floating around are Yellowstone County District Court Judge Russell Fagg, who a few weeks ago announced he would retire in October. Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Matt Rosendale is also a probable candidate. Some have pointed to new Montana GOP chairwoman Debra Lamm as a possibility, and Kurt Allen Cole, of Troy, previously told Lee Newspapers he was considering a bid.
Montana’s 2018 Senate race is expected to be hard-fought and expensive. Nationally, Democrats are playing up the elections as a referendum on President Donald Trump, who has faced low approval ratings in his first six months on the job. Republicans are encouraged by victories in special elections this spring, including one by now-U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte in Montana, who beat Democrat Rob Quist even after Gianforte assaulted a reporter on the eve of the election. Tester has navigated Trump's presidency so far at times falling on the same side of issues as Trump, thought not always.
Murray said he’s a supporter of Republican President Donald Trump and that the president needs another ally in Congress.
“He’s doing all he can to help our nation as much as possible, but he needs to have people out there. Looking at what Trump is trying to do across the nation, he just needs to have grounded, good individuals in Congress who are looking out for the best interests in everybody.”
Right now his campaign is focusing on five main issues: infrastructure, border security, tapping Montana’s natural resources, the economy and veterans affairs.
Murray said liberal immigration policies in Canada “potentially leaves our northern border open to a vulnerability we’ve never had before.”
He also said a bill Tester introduced to permanently ban mining in the Paradise Valley is the wrong approach. “Montana has so much to offer. Are we doing the most we possibly can for the industries and the jobs they create?”
The VA is one of Tester’s main focuses, as is health care. Murray said he hasn’t had a chance to fully read the Senate’s version of the American Health Care Act released Thursday. The legislation is the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s landmark health care legislation.
“I feel we are on the right track. We do need to repeal and replace Obamacare. But it’s hard to make a solid comment on it because it’s going to change so much,” Murray said.
Murray operates a kennel in Belgrade that employs nine people. In 2010 he ran for a state House seat and lost in the primary to Ted Washburn, who filed a complaint with the Commissioner of Political Practices Office against Murray.
After an investigation, Murray reached a settlement with the commissioner in which he said he inappropriately received services from the National Right to Work Committee. Several other Republican were also found to have inappropriately taken services from the nonprofit known as a social welfare organization.
Murray agreed to pay $6,000 and do $14,000 worth of community service. Right-to-Work is a national organization that is anti-union.
On Friday, Murray said that though he reached a settlement with then-Commissioner Jonathan Motl, he didn’t intend to do anything wrong and the print-shop he had hired contracted his printing work out to Right to Work.