GREAT FALLS — U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, facing what’s sure to be a bruising re-election battle against Republican U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, said Saturday that he expects millions of dollars to be spent by opponents during the campaign to “distort my record.”
But if his campaign and its supporters can successfully tell voters what he’s done, Tester said he can win.
“We have to run our own race,” he said in an interview at the state Democratic Party convention in Great Falls. “We have to talk about what I’ve done, what we’ve accomplished and my vision for the future. ... If we deal with the facts this election cycle, the choice will be clear and we will win.”
Tester-Rehberg will be one of the most closely watched U.S. Senate races, as it could tip the balance of party control of the Senate. Democrats hold a 53-47 majority, but at least a half-dozen Democratic seats, including Tester’s, are considered in possible jeopardy.
Rehberg, a six-term congressman representing Montana, already is running an aggressive campaign, and money spent by third-party groups on advertising in the race is expected to run well into the millions of dollars.
Rehberg has been a vocal critic of President Barack Obama’s policies. Rehberg’s campaign often strives to tie Tester to Obama, criticizing Tester’s vote for the 2010 health reform package and the 2009 stimulus bill, among other things.
Tester said he won’t run away from his votes, and that the stimulus bill helped create jobs in Montana, “stopped the bleeding” in a badly damaged economy, and stopped massive job losses.
“We have a ways to go, because we’re not creating enough jobs, but we’re certainly not losing jobs like we were,” he said.
“The record will show what the Republicans did when they were in office and what the Democrats did when they came on (in 2009),” he said.
Tester said Democrats also want to work on reducing the federal deficit and federal debt, but that everything should be on the table, including cuts to defense spending and steps to bolster federal revenue. Republicans supported two wars and a prescription drug plan and “put it all on a credit card,” he said.
He said government can help the economy by investing in education, infrastructure and research and development, and that solving the deficit doesn’t mean “shutting off the flow” entirely to those sorts of spending initiatives.
“I think the differences are vast (between himself and Rehberg),” Tester said. “Do you want to elect someone who for the last four years has said ‘no’ to everything, or do you want to elect someone who has vision and wants to move the country forward, and keep it as a leader in the world? I think Democrats are among the latter, and not the former.”