Tester’s Republican challenger draws on his underdog status in Montana’s U.S. Senate debate

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – Republican candidate for US Senate Tim Sheehy embraced his status as an outsider who came to Montana to start a business as he sought Sunday to allay concerns about wealthy newcomers driving up property taxes during the first debate of a contest this could tip the balance of power in the Senate.

Democratic the outgoing senator. Jon Tester is considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats on the ballot and Sunday’s debate was the first time the two candidates faced off publicly. Republicans need only a few seats in the November elections to regain the majority in the Senate.

The tester said Sheehy was “part of the problem” amid a housing shortage and rising taxes for many Montana residents after home values ​​increased in many areas.

“A lot of people have moved to this state, a lot of people with fat wallets, a lot of people driving up the cost of housing,” Tester said. “Tim Sheehy is not part of the solution; he is part of the problem.”

Sheehy blamed Democrats for the growing economic pressures facing many households. The 37-year-old political newcomer and former Navy SEAL said Tester and President Joe Biden weren’t doing enough to curb inflation.

He also said he was happy to move to Montana in 2014 to raise a family and start an aerial firefighting business near Bozeman.

“If you’re not from here, Jon Tester doesn’t think your voice matters, apparently,” Sheehy said. “Creating jobs in this state was an honor for me.”

The exchange reflects the central role that tax and economic issues could play as Republicans try to unseat Tester, 67, a farmer and former state lawmaker from the small town of Big Sandy. He is seeking a fourth term in the Senate.

Many economic indicators remain positive in Montana and the United States, including growing employment numbers and low unemployment. But rising property taxes and the rising costs of certain goods and services are fueling political tensions, which could influence the outcome of elections.

Tester is considered a moderate in Washington — a status that has helped him in the past attract support from independent voters who make up a significant portion of Montana’s electorate. Still, Republicans have been on a roll in recent election cycles and now control every statewide office in Montana except the tester office.

Sheehy has repeatedly tried to lump Tester in with President Joe Biden amid widespread public discontent with the administration’s struggles to stem illegal immigration at the southern border. Biden announced tightening last week restrictions on asylum seekers enter the United States

“They’re trying to trick us into saying, ‘We’re going to fix this,'” Sheehy said. He called a Democrats’ immigration bill that was blocked by Republican lawmakers “political theater.”

“It’s time to close it,” he added of the border.

Tester acknowledged more needs to be done on immigration and said Biden’s decision on asylum should…

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