In news even less surprising than that he has been terrible at his job as State Auditor, Maryland real estate developer Matt Rosendale has entered the Republican primary to run against Senator Jon Tester next year.
Rosendale’s entry is, admittedly, bad news for Montana Democrats who would like to see the party expand its messaging beyond this issue of public lands because Rosendale is worse than Zinke, Daines, and Gianforte combined on the issue. He’s on record calling federal ownership of lands unconstitutional, has attended crackpot conferences that equate environmentalism with fascism and has cozied up to Ken Ivory and his American Lands Council. If Rosendale manages to win the primary, public lands will be at the forefront of yet another race here in Montana.
Rosendale is also going to be vulnerable when it comes to health care. While the non-existent, Fox News created monster of Obamacare isn’t popular in Montana, the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that keep our rural hospitals running, provide health care for at least 70,000 Montanans, and ensure that those with preexisting conditions can keep their coverage are popular and entirely necessary.
Rosendale is an extremist on the issue, arguing just last week that there should be a straight repeal of the law, even if that meant no gradual transition for those on Medicaid, allow coverage for kids until they are 26, or protect those already ill. Instead, Rosendale has used his brief time in office to shill for religious health cooperatives that can decide to deny coverage to people if they decide the participants are not leading moral lives.
Rosendale is also an enemy of public schools, voting against the interests of students and the public schools that hold our small towns together at every turn. He’s opposed to women’s health, the rights of the LGBTQ community, and even voted against the bill that finally removed same-sex sexual activity from the list of criminal acts in Montana. We’ll certainly be talking a lot more about his reactionary social views here over the next few months.
While Republicans in Montana seem to have fallen in love with deep-pocketed transplants to the state, it will be interesting to see if a man who pronounces Bozeman the way Rosendale does and who holds such extremist views can connect with Montana voters. During his campaign for Congress, he was forced to fund his own bid, a debt he is still working to pay off, and only received 6,188 votes for the over one million dollars he poured into his campaign.
Billings Judge Russell Fagg, a former state legislator who is considering his own Senate run, took a jab at Rosendale’s residency in Montana. Fagg said his “four generations of Montana roots, all the way back to the late 1800s” puts him in a better position to understand the problems faced by Montanans.
It’s going to be a real challenge for Rosendale to overcome the perception that he is an extremist more interested in his personal views than in representing the state and its people. It’s going to be even harder to overcome the reality of his record.