HELENA — The head of a California-based self-storage company has filed to run against U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana in 2018, the second Republican so far with plans to challenge the two-term Democrat.
Troy Downing, 50, filed his paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on May 8, but did not planned a public announcement until later this month, he said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.
"I want to be part of the solution preserving the Last Best Place," he said, referring to Montana's unofficial motto. "I'm tired of the dysfunction and the anger that we're seeing, and I think I have some interesting perspectives."
This is Downing's first run for office. He's the CEO AC Self Storage Solutions, a Carlsbad, California-based company that buys and manages storage facilities in five states.
He has residences in Gallatin County and San Diego County, but decided to become a full-time Montana resident several years ago and now conducts much of his business from his home in Big Sky, he said.
Downing previously was a researcher and teacher of internet technologies at New York University. He joined the Air Force after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and he pilots airplanes and helicopters.
He said he has met with Republicans in Washington, D.C., about his possible candidacy and received a warm reception. He said he has not met with any Montana Republican central committee members.
"I'm going to start going through the GOP list and introducing myself," he said.
His Washington trip spurred a story by the Washington-based publication The Hill that reported on tweets Downing posted last year that were critical of President Donald Trump.
He said in the interview he may have had his doubts about the president when he was a candidate, but he now believes that Trump's administration will improve the nation's economy and security.
Downing joins state Sen. Al Olszewski as Republican hopefuls seeking to oust Tester. The party has been searching for a strong candidate since Trump appointed former U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke as his Interior secretary.
Republicans have courted Attorney General Tim Fox, and State Auditor Matthew Rosendale also said he's considering a run.
Montana's other U.S. senator, Republican Steve Daines said in a conference call with donors earlier this month that the party has a candidate lined up, "a statewide elected official that I think can beat Jon Tester," Daines said, according to a transcript.
Daines did not name the candidate, and his spokeswoman, Katie Waldman, declined to comment.
Montana Democratic Party spokesman Chris Meagher said in a statement that it won't matter who emerges from what may be a "messy" Republican primary.
"Jon Tester will win in November 2018 because his life is rooted in Montana and Montanans know Jon and know he works hard for them every day," Meagher said in the statement.