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HELENA — Bozeman Republican Steve Daines is expected to announce Saturday that he is challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester in 2012.

Daines, a businessman and the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 2008, was not available for comment.

Political sources said they expect Daines to become the first Republican to jump in the 2012 U.S. Senate race. An announcement is expected in Bozeman on Saturday.

“I would expect that that what's going to happen, but no one has told me what's going to happen,” said state Republican Chairman Will Deschamps of Missoula.

The leading potential Republican contender for the seat, U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, has not yet announced his plans for 2012.

Last week, Rehberg easily won his sixth straight House seat. He defeated Democrat Dennis McDonald by 60 percent to 34 percent, with Libertarian Mike Fellows receiving 6 percent.

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Daines, 48, is vice president of RightNow Technologies, a Bozeman high-tech company.

In 2008, Daines ran as lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket headed by state Sen. Roy Brown of Billings. They were defeated by a 2-to-1 margin by Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger.

Daines was a leading Montana supporter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in the 2008 presidential race.

The State Bureau reported last year that Neil C. Livingstone, president of a global investigative and security business in Washington, D.C., said he was being asked by people to return to Montana to run as a Republican for the U.S. Senate or governor in 2012. Tester, meanwhile, announced in June that he will be seeking a second Senate term.

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