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Thursday, May 26, 2005

MT-Sen: Jon Tester Announcement News

Posted by Bob Brigham

Jon Tester, Democrat running for the U.S. Senate in Montana, received a ton of good press during his state-wide announcement tour. Swing State Project has adopted Tester and since this is an amazing pick-up opportunity for Democrats, we will be following this race very closely.

To allow everyone to see how this race is shaping up from the start, I've compiled a collection of reports on the kickoff, including news on the Pearl Jam involvement.

If you like what you see, help Tester get his campaign up and running with an early contribution.

First, The Missoulian:

After 45 minutes of snaking through Missoula traffic, a large gray tractor-trailer parked at the University of Montana's College of Technology on Wednesday afternoon. The driver, U.S. Senate candidate Jon Tester, emerged - promising to stand up for Main Street Montana.

A former music teacher and a Democrat, Tester, 48, has been on a state tour promoting his candidacy for U.S. Senate since Tuesday.

The tour began in his hometown of Big Sandy. He has driven through Havre, Great Falls, Billings, Bozeman, Butte and, finally, Missoula.

When Tester wins, he'll be one of a handful of senators who know how to work a double-clutch on a big rig.

Tester said his campaign will focus on issues that affect the overlooked populations in the state, namely the middle class and American Indians.

Too many working-class people in Montana have been pushed into the ranks of the working poor, Tester said.

After his initial swing through the state, Tester said he will begin a tour of Montana's Indian reservations. "You can't address Montana's economic issues unless you address the employment issues on reservations," he said.

He added that the state needs to start working with tribes on a government-to-government level.

And who was with him in Missoula?

Pearl Jam bassist and youth vote proponent Jeff Ament was at Wednesday afternoon's stopover in Missoula, and said he agrees with most of Tester's political agenda.

Ament, who grew up in Big Sandy with Tester, said preserving rural Montana is key to gaining young votes.

"Keeping rural Montana alive has so much to do with the youth of Montana," Ament said. "You see these small, rural communities dying and it's killing the hope for the youth. If he becomes a part of the federal Senate, he could make a big difference."

More on Pearl Jam and the concert rumors in a minute. Now to the Lee Newspapers state bureau:

Tester, 48, said in a cell phone interview from his truck that he is seeking the U.S. Senate seat because he believes many Montanans have been overlooked by the federal government.

"I just feel small business, family farmers, agriculture, working people have been kind of under attack for the last 15-20 years," Tester said. "I think the federal government needs to make these people a priority. The middle class has built this country, and we need to make them whole."

Other top issues, he said, are opposing President Bush's Social Security plan to let some people put some of their Social Security money instead in private investment accounts, and the soaring federal deficit, which threatens Medicaid and highway funding.

"More than half of our (state budget) money is federal," he said. We've got to work to protect them."

This article has more on the issues:

Tester said he decided to jump into the Senate race because of the strong support he received from fellow Democratic legislators, constituents and folks around the state.

He cited his track record as a senator helping Main Street Montanans with some of this legislation:

  • A law passed this year to create a comprehensive prescription drug benefit program for Montana's seniors, disabled and uninsured.
  • A 2005 law to create jobs and strengthen the state's economy by reinstating the "Made in Montana" promotion program the Martz administration had ended.
  • A law this year to encourage renewable energy development across the state and to help bring jobs to rural Montana and lower energy rates for consumers.
  • His efforts to guide passage of a bill that led to a historic increase in public school funding.

Here's why he needs your help:

Tester said he will try to raise the $600,000 to $800,000 that people have told him he will need for the primary election. Defeating Burns in the general election will take at least $6 million, he said.

"We'll handle the money as frugally as we can," Tester said. "We'll do the best we can with what we have to work with. I'm used to working with budgets that are pretty close to the table."

Contribution amount: $

Now back to the Pearl Jam rumor, from Courtney Lowry at New West:

When you find things you thought were no longer possible, it's hard not to get excited. Wednesday afternoon, I came across two such things -- a political candidate I actually like and the possibility of hearing actual music in Montana.

It seems we're lacking both these days, so to see Jon Tester and Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament standing together in the mid-afternoon Missoula sun with a tractor-trailer in the background was enough to give a person hope. [...]

Ament was there to support him sporting a white T-shirt with "Tester 2006" written in black marker across the chest.

The connection here is that both of them are from Big Sandy (a small farming community on the hi-line) both have watched the fabric of Montana change as the agriculture economy dropped and small businesses struggled, both want to get Conrad Burns out of the U.S. Senate and both think Jon Tester is the man for the job.

I'm guessing that is the first campaign shirt of the season, a rock star wearing a hand made t-shirt.

I've said this before, but I always use my old farmer Dad as a litmus test for how a Democrat is going to fare in Montana. My Dad is the old guard of the real family farmer and if you want to be a Democrat and win in Montana, you've got to appeal to the Clyde Lowerys of the world. My Dad and Jon Tester would be friends. They would spot each other in a room and talk for hours about the weather. My Dad wouldn't know what to do in a room with John Morrison.

But I digress. The real news here for Missoulians is that Ament has thrown his superstar weight behind Tester and that, my friends, could mean a lot for Jon Tester (and even possibly a benefit concert from Pearl Jam.) Arment said there's a lot of things to be worked out (like campaign donation laws and whatnot) but he and the boys are going to help out in anyway they can, "I want to do it and the band is totally behind it," he said. The band is going on tour in Canada this fall and their working on finishing an album, so there's a lot to be ironed out still.

Pearl Jam is famous for their philanthropy and one of Ament's pet issues is aid to family farmers. He said the band has contemplated doing Farm Aid shows in the past, but it never quite fit. By supporting Tester, Ament says he feels like he's still supporting family farmers.

"The thing that gets me most excited about Jon being involved on a federal level is that I think he could turn the farm program around," he told the small crowd. He later told me that "we have to keep rural Montana alive." Tester, he said, is the best chance.

This is going to be a helluva a race to watch. Let's give Tester the tools he needs to win!

Contribution amount: $

Posted at 01:18 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Activism, Montana | Technorati


Is Tester's website up and running yet?

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 26, 2005 02:25 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Coming soon...Jon Tester.

Posted by: Bob Brigham [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 26, 2005 05:03 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment