HELENA – Former U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., said Monday he has decided not to run for his old House seat or any other office in 2014.
In a text message, Rehberg said he wants to “focus on family, friends and business for awhile.”
Although his name had not been mentioned for the House publicly, Rehberg on Jan. 2 told reporters he had not ruled out running for the seat this year.
Rehberg said then that people had begun contacting him, asking that he consider running for the seat he held for 12 years. He didn’t seek re-election to the House in 2012, and instead made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate.
“I think I have a lot to offer the people,” he said earlier this month. “I could hit the ground running to work on all the problems that exist that we warned the public about, like Obamacare and the direction of Washington.”
He said that he, his wife and a relative have opened a Burger King in Billings that employs 43 people, and they hope to build three more across the state this year.
Rehberg, 58, has been a prominent figure in Montana politics for parts of four decades, starting as a legislator in the 1980s, a lieutenant governor under two governors in the 1990s and as the state’s lone congressman from 2001 to 2013.
He managed challenger Conrad Burns’ successful 1988 campaign for the U.S. Senate, but lost his two Senate bids against Democratic incumbents, one to Sen. Max Baucus in 1996 and the other to Sen. Jon Tester in 2012.
Four Republicans and one Democrat already have announced they are running for the U.S. House seat. Two more Republicans have said they are likely to enter the race in the coming weeks.
Announced Republicans for the House are state Sen. Matt Rosendale of Glendive, former state Sen. Corey Stapleton of Billings, Drew Turiano of Helena and former state Sen. Ryan Zinke of Whitefish.
Another Republican, state Sen. Elsie Arntzen of Billings, has said she will file in the coming days.
Former Secretary of State Brad Johnson, also a Republican, has said he intended to run for the House but also is considering whether to run for Montana Public Service Commission instead from District 5.
John Lewis of Helena is the lone Democrat in the race so far.