Political ad season returns to Montana

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HELENA — In recent years, Montanans have been inundated with political ads – and that could be on track to continue into 2024.

With almost a year still to go before the first votes are cast in the race for Montana’s U.S. Senate seat, the first candidate ads are already going onto the airwaves. On Friday, Gallatin County businessman Tim Sheehy – a prominent Republican candidate challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester – announced his first statewide advertising campaign.

The ad is largely biographical, describing Sheehy and his wife’s military service in Afghanistan, as well as his businesses Bridger Aerospace and Little Belt Cattle Company. In it, Sheehy describes himself as a “conservative leader.”

A source familiar with Sheehy’s ad buy told MTN it totaled about $200,000, and covers broadcast television, cable and satellite and digital advertising.

Montana’s U.S. Senate races have been some of the most hotly contested and closely watched in the country in recent election cycles. 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.

In 2024, the campaign for Tester’s seat is again expected to be a key race for determining control of the U.S. Senate.

More details about early campaign spending will be available in October, when federal candidates file their financial reports for the third quarter of the year – July, August and September.

These may not be the last candidates to get into the Senate race – and there’s still plenty of time for candidates to get their message out to Montana voters. We are still more than ten months away from the 2024 primary next June, and the November general election is 15 months away.

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