Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, a Republican, has decided not to run against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in the November 2018 election, according to the national news magazine and website Politico. The authors of the piece, Kevin Robillard and Elena Schneider, quoted two unnamed GOP sources with knowledge of the decision.
It had been widely speculated that Fox would either challenge Tester or run for governor in 2020. Current Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, will be not eligible for re-election as he will have already served two terms by 2018.
A call to Fox’s communications director Eric Sell was not returned on Friday. A phone call to Shelby DeMars, who works for the political consulting firm The Montana Group and who ran Fox’s successful campaign for AG in 2016, went to a disconnected number.
The Politico story said that “Republicans had been confident Fox would run against Tester in a state (President) Trump won by more than 20 points in 2016.”
The story also pointed out that Fox “is known” to have interest in running for governor.
The Politico authors quoted anonymous Montana Republicans who said that Fox is more likely to run for governor now that Greg Gianforte faces a misdemeanor citation for allegedly assaulting a reporter shortly before being elected to Montana’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives last week.
"This all changed post-bodyslam," the story quoted a Washington, D.C., Republican as saying.
Troy Downing, the head of a California-based self-storage company who now lives near Bozeman, has filed the paperwork to run against Tester. State Sen. Al Olszewski, an orthopedic surgeon who lives in Kalispell, also has told Lee Newspapers of Montana that he will run. Many political observers have speculated that State Auditor Matt Rosendale is considering a run as well.
In response to the report, Chris Meagher, spokesman for the Montana Democratic Party, released a statement.
“Today's development shows how strong of a record Jon has in Montana,” Meagher said. “And as he continues to do the work he was elected to do, a crowded field of candidates will have to try to survive what will be a messy and divisive primary."
Tester has hired a campaign manager and has more than $3 million in cash for the campaign, $2 million of which was raised in the first quarter of this year.
Montana GOP chairman Jeff Essman told the Associated Press that he originally thought current Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke would be the main challenger to Tester before President Trump picked him for a cabinet position.