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Advertising already heating up, one year from Montana's U.S. Senate race

U.S. Capitol MTN
Posted at 5:59 PM, Nov 07, 2023

HELENA — There’s now a full year to go until the general election in 2024, when Montanans will select a U.S. senator, and the competition on the airwaves is now officially underway.

On Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester’s campaign began airing its first TV ads of this campaign season across the state. Campaign leaders confirmed it was part of a “significant six-figure buy.”

In a post on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, the firm AdImpact Politics said Tester’s campaign had reserved more than $770,000 worth of TV airtime.

Tester’s first ad highlights his farm life in Big Sandy and the changes Montana has been experiencing. In it, he vows to protect Montana’s way of life in Washington, D.C.

“Jon Tester understands what life is like for Montana families because he lives it every day,” campaignn manager Shelbi Dantic said in a statement. “Montana might be changing, but Jon Tester hasn’t. He still works the land his grandparents homesteaded more than 100 years ago and he still gets his same $12 flattop haircut. Jon Tester knows what makes our state so special and he will never stop defending Montana.”

Ads for Tester are also running online.

At the end of the third quarter of 2023, Tester’s campaign had $13 million in cash on hand. It had already spent more than $1 million on digital media, more than $550,000 for direct mail and more than $100,000 for text messaging.

Gallatin County businessman Tim Sheehy, who’s seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Tester, has been running TV and digital ads consistently since the end of July – initially introducing himself, his Navy service and his businesses Bridger Aerospace and Little Belt Cattle Company, and later pushing back on the records of Tester and the Biden administration.

As of the end of September, Sheehy’s campaign had spent more than $820,000 on “media placement and production,” and another $85,000 on digital advertising and website hosting.

Of course, the ads Montanans will see over the next 12 months won’t only be from the campaigns themselves. Independent expenditures have been funding ads against Sheehy, and the Montana Republican Party announced an online campaign Tuesday accusing Tester of being “two-faced.”

Montana’s last two Senate races have been some of the most hotly contested in the country. In 2018, more than $63 million were spent by candidates and outside groups in the race between Tester and Republican nominee and future U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale. Two years later, more than $150 million was spent in the 2020 campaign, when incumbent Republican Sen. Steve Daines defeated Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock. Next year’s race is expected to be no different, so voters shouldn’t expect the heavy advertising across the state to stop anytime soon.