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A retired lawmaker from his Montana ranch is positioning himself for a return in a competitive House race

Troy Downing files for candidacy (Via Benjamin Walsh/Shutterstock)

From his ranch in one of America’s largest and newest congressional districts, where agriculture and Republicans are prominent, a retired six-term Montana lawmaker and grandfather is attempting a surprising return to politics.

Denny Rehberg, 68 years old, is more than ten years removed from an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate.

Now competing in a crowded field for an open seat where no one candidate is clearly ahead, he has not raised much money, has not been highly visible on the campaign trail, and chose not to participate in the only televised debate before the Tuesday Republican primary.

Rehberg joined the race late after conservative incumbent U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale announced a Senate bid in February but withdrew amid disagreements with party leaders.

Haley looks at the photographs (Via Benjamin Lee/Shutterstock)

His opponents argue that Rehberg’s era in politics has ended. He has also been heavily outspent by Troy Downing, his opponent who serves as the state’s auditor and insurance commissioner. Downing’s personal contributions and loans to his campaign match the total funds raised by all other candidates combined.

Throughout history, election to the House has served as a launching point for Montana politicians to higher offices such as the U.S. Senate, governorship, and positions in the White House Cabinet. The district was established after the 2020 Census due to the state’s population growth, which earned Montana an additional House seat.

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