HELENA — State Sen. Jon Sonju, R-Kalispell, was in Washington, D.C., recently to meet with the National Republican Congressional Committee and business and gun rights groups in preparation for running for the U.S. House in 2014.
Sonju is ready to enter the race for the state’s lone House seat once U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., makes his anticipated announcement that he will seek the open U.S. Senate seat.
“I don’t think there’s any secret that Daines is looking at the Senate seat and he should,” Sonju said Tuesday. “He’s the most qualified. I’m waiting for him to make his formal announcement that he’s going to run.”
As for the U.S. House race, Sonju said he has both feet in, adding: “I have a team built around me. You have to be all in, and I’m all in.”
Sonju, 37, served four two-year terms in the Montana House and is completing his first four-year term in the state Senate. He ran for lieutenant governor last year on the ticket headed by former U.S. Rep. Rick Hill, and they narrowly lost.
While in Washington last week, Sonju said, he met with NRCC Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., along with representatives of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Rifle Association and American Crossroads, which Karl Rove, political strategist for President George W. Bush, helped found.
He’s hired Republican strategist and former state GOP Chairman Erik Iverson, who works for Moore Information, a polling firm. Iverson was a key adviser to the 2012 U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Denny Rehberg, who lost a close race to U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
Sonju is business development manager for Sonju Industrial, a family-owned aerospace manufacturer in Kalispell. A different branch of the company, SI Defense, makes weapons.
“It goes back to promoting your strengths—my business side, my strong conservative voting record,” he said. “I reached out to a lot of different groups, including a lot of groups that promote the Second Amendment.”
The Republican House primary figures to be a crowded field. Already running is former state Sen. Corey Stapleton of Billings. Others considering a race are state Rep. Champ Edmunds of Missoula; former state Sen. Ryan Zinke of Whitefish; Rep. Scott Reichner of Bigfork; state Sen. Matt Rosendale of Glendive; and former Secretary of State Brad Johnson of East Helena.
On the Democratic side, John Lewis of Helena, who previously headed U.S. Sen. Max Baucus’s staff in Montana, has filed papers to begin raising money.
Roll Call first reported the story about Sonju’s trip to Washington.