|United States Senator
January 3, 2007
Serving with John Walsh
|Preceded by||Conrad Burns|
|Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs|
February 12, 2014
|Preceded by||Maria Cantwell|
|President of the Montana Senate|
January 3, 2005 – January 3, 2007
|Preceded by||Bob Keenan|
|Succeeded by||Mike Cooney|
|Member of the Montana Senate
from the 45th district
January 3, 1999 – January 3, 2005
|Succeeded by||Jim Shockley|
August 21, 1956 |
Havre, Montana, U.S.
|Residence||Big Sandy, Montana|
|Alma mater||University of Great Falls|
|Religion||Church of God|
Tester was first elected to the Senate in 2006, beating Republican incumbent Conrad Burns in one of the closest Senate races of that year. He won reelection in 2012 against Rep. Denny Rehberg in another close race. Tester previously served as the president of the Montana Senate and worked as a music teacher and farmer.
- 1 Early life, education, and farming career
- 2 Montana Senate (1999–2007)
- 3 U.S. Senate (2007-present)
- 4 Electoral history
- 5 Personal life
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
Early life, education, and farming career
Tester was born in Havre, Montana, one of three sons of Helen Marie (née Pearson) and David O. Tester. His father was of English descent and his mother of Swedish ancestry. Tester grew up in Chouteau County, near the town of Big Sandy, Montana, on land that his grandfather homesteaded in 1912. At the age of 9, he lost the middle three fingers of his left hand in a meat-grinder accident. In 1978, he graduated from the University of Great Falls with a B.S. in music.
Tester then worked for two years as a music teacher in the Big Sandy School District before returning to his family's farm and custom butcher shop. He and his wife continue to operate the farm; in the 1980s, they switched from conventional to organic farming, raising wheat, barley, lentils, peas, millet, buckwheat, and alfalfa. Tester served five years as chairman of the Big Sandy School Board of Trustees and served on the Big Sandy Soil Conservation Service (SCS) Committee and the Chouteau County Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) Committee.
Montana Senate (1999–2007)
Tester was first elected to the Montana State Senate in 1998, after his neighbor, a Republican state senator, decided not to run for reelection. He was elected the minority whip for the 2001 session. In 2002, he was reelected with 71% of the vote. In 2003, he became minority leader. In 2005, Tester was elected president of the Montana Senate, the chief presiding officer of the Montana Legislature's upper chamber.
His election as President marked a transition for Montana Democrats as they moved into the majority leadership of the Senate for the first time in more than a decade. Term limits prohibited Tester from running for State Senate for a third consecutive term. While serving as Senate president, Tester supported increased funding for public education and cutting taxes for small business owners and the working poor. He also worked to make health insurance more affordable and require public utilities to use more renewable energy.
- Senate Finance Committee (2001–2004)
- Senate Agriculture Committee (2000–2005)
- Senate Rules Committee (2003–2005)
- Senate Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs Committee (2005)
- Council Interim Committee (2003–2004)
U.S. Senate (2007-present)
Tester announced his candidacy in May 2005 for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican incumbent Senator Conrad Burns. Tester was the second Democrat to jump into the race, after state auditor John Morrison. While Tester was seen as having a greater following among his fellow legislators, his opponent, whose grandfather was governor of Nebraska, was able to raise significantly more money and had greater statewide name recognition.
Morrison had collected $1.05 million as of the start of 2006, including $409,241 in the last three months of 2005, but "Morrison's advantages in fundraising and name identification have not translated into a lead in the polls," most of which showed the race exceedingly tight, some calling it a "deadlock" as of late May.
On June 6, 2006, Tester won the Democratic primary by a margin of over 25 percentage points, much larger than expected given the previous polling. Burns won the Republican primary over former state Senate President Bob Keenan. On election day, Tester received 199,845 votes to Burns's 196,283. Tester was declared the winner on November 8, 2006. His victory, along with that of Jim Webb in Virginia, was one of the two closest and last decided Senate races in the 2006 midterms, which saw the Democrats regain control of the Senate.
Tester's race was seen as a pivotal one for both parties seeking the Senate majority. Tester split with Democrats on several key issues, such as the Keystone XL oil pipeline, but has also voted with his party on issues such as health care reform and the Dodd–Frank financial services overhaul.
When announcing his candidacy, Rehberg called Tester a "yes man" for President Obama, saying that he sided with the administration in 97% of his votes. Rehberg cited Tester's support for the healthcare legislation and the 2009 stimulus, both of which Rehberg opposed. Tester said that he stood by his votes on both, saying that the healthcare legislation contains "a lot of good stuff" and that the only thing failed about the stimulus was "a vote against it". The Los Angeles Times noted that Tester diverged from his party on matters such as gun rights and illegal immigration.
Tester criticized Republicans in Congress for making policy that is designed "for those who write the biggest campaign checks". He has stated that Washington culture is controlled by K Street cronies. He has spoken against flag burning, but sees a Constitutional ban as unnecessary. Originally an opponent of same-sex marriage, Tester announced his support of the institution in March 2013. Instead of avoiding class issues, Tester has also taken them head-on. On Meet the Press, he asserted that "there's no more middle class" because of Bush Administration policies.
During a Billings press conference, the Tester campaign released a statement from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pledging to give Tester a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee, regardless of whether Democrats wrested control of the Senate from Republicans, "as soon as possible". On January 13, 2009, Tester's second session of Congress, he was given a seat on the Appropriations Committee.
A profile of Tester after his 2006 election described him as "truly your grandfather's Democrat—a pro-gun, anti-big-business prairie pragmatist whose life is defined by the treeless patch of hard Montana dirt that has been in the family since 1916."
He is pro-choice and supports embryonic stem cell research, and he has also voted to increase funding for Medicare and SCHIP. In the Senate, Tester continues to advocate increased funding for public education, just as he did in the Montana Legislature. Tester supports middle class tax cuts. He has voted against repealing the Estate Tax and Alternative Minimum Tax, policies he sees as favoring only the wealthy. When criticized for being soft on national security, Tester stated, "the Patriot Act has very little to do with the War on Terrorism" and asserted that "I don't want to weaken the Patriot Act, I want to repeal it."
A January 2012 piece on Tester focused on the fact that he butchers and brings his own meat with him to Washington. He said "Taking meat with us is just something that we do.... We like our own meat."
Tester received some backlash from progressives who had embraced him in 2006 for his vote against the DREAM Act. It was reported that Markos Moulitsas was one of those who had become upset, saying that he thought Tester was "morally bankrupt" and that he would now go out of his way to oppose Tester's election bid. DNC member Jean Lemire Dahlman deemed his vote "a grave mistake", saying she was surprised by it. Tester responded to his critics, saying he believed that he was representing the desires of his constituents.
- Filibuster on American Jobs Act
Tester was one of only two Democratic senators to filibuster the American Jobs Act. It was reported that he wasn't concerned about the surtax on some families to pay for the plan, but was unsure that the new spending would actually create jobs.
- Health care
Tester supported the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, voting for it in December 2009. Tester voted for the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.
- Don't Ask, Don't Tell
- Swipe fees controversy
In April 2011, Tester was sharply criticized for introducing legislation to delay regulations that would cap the fees paid by retailers for debit card transactions at 12 cents while simultaneously accepting campaign contributions from the financial sector, which opposes such regulations. Tester later amended his legislation, reducing the delay from 24 months to 15 months.
- Corporate personhood
It was reported that Tester opposed the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, where it was decided that corporations and unions had free-speech rights that allow them to donate money to third party political groups. Tester said that "corporations are a whole lot different than people. I don't know corporations that can be put in prison." He went on to say that he didn't believe that the forefathers envisioned corporations enjoying the same or more rights than people, which he thought was happening. Tester doesn't believe that it helps Republicans or Democrats, rather, it undermines our ability to effectively run the United States.
- Receiving lobbyist money
In March 2012, the Montana GOP filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee requesting an investigation into the actions of Tester and Max Baucus. The complaint cited a Politico report suggesting that Baucus' K Street connections were "warning clients against giving campaign contributions to Tester's Republican challenger Rep. Denny Rehberg". Tester denied any wrongdoing.
Tester tried to revive a bill that was meant to be a compromise between the conservationists and the timber industry. The bill would put 700,000 acres of wilderness aside for "light-on-the-land logging projects" with the intention of creating jobs in the flagging industry. It was noted that Tester was not "winning admirers on his side", with some liberal environmentalists saying that gives lumber mills control of the national forests.
Tester's votes in the Senate generally have given him high ratings from liberal groups, and low ones from conservative groups. For example in 2012 he was rated 90% by Americans for Democratic Action and 86% by the League for Conservation Voters. Conversely, he had scores of 11% from the National Taxpayers Union and 4% from American Conservative Union. The National Journal rates his votes overall as 55% liberal and 45% conservative.
Tester in 2013 became chairman of the Banking Committee's Securities, Insurance, and Investment Subcommittee. It has focused on oversight of computerized high-speed traders and efforts to rein in technological snafus that hurt investor confidence in the markets. In September 2013 he announced opposition to the appointment of Larry Summers as chairman of the Federal Reserve; lacking a committee majority Summers then withdrew his name from consideration.
- Committee on Appropriations
- Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
- Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
- Committee on Indian Affairs (Chairman)
- Committee on Veterans' Affairs
- Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus (Co-Chair)
- International Conservation Caucus
|Montana U.S. Senate Election 2012|
|Democratic||Jon Tester (incumbent)||233,064||48.45||-1.8|
|Montana U.S. Senate Election 2006|
|Republican||Conrad Burns (Incumbent)||196,283||48.3||−2.3|
During Tester's senior year in college, he married Sharla Bitz. Like Jon, Sharla Tester comes from an agricultural family and grew up in north-central Montana. The couple has two children: a daughter Christine, born in 1980; and a son Shon, born in 1985.
Tester has never lived more than two hours away from his farm, which is located in north-central Montana.
- "TESTER, Jon", Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
- Cohen, Betsy. "Back on the farm", Helena Independent Record, 09 April 2007.
- Klein, Joe. "The Democrats' New Populism", Time, 2 July 2006.
- "Biography". U.S. Senate website. Retrieved 2009-12-26.
- "Jon Tester (D-Mont.)" WhoRunsGov.com. Retrieved 2009-12-26.
- Lowery, Courtney. "The 'Good Guy' Running for U.S. Senate", NewWest, 28 August 2005.
- "Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT)". The Almanac of American Politics, National Journal. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
- McCulloch, Linda. Senate "Term Limits - Elections". Retrieved 3 October 2012.
- Johnson, Charles S. "Tester begins Demo race for U.S. Senate", Billings Gazette, 24 May 2005.
- Johnson, Charles S. "Tester, Morrison list endorsements", Billings Gazette, 16 May 2006.
- Johnson, Charles S. "Burns' fundraising nears $5 million; Morrison's hits $1 million", CQPolitics.com, 28 August 2005.
- Horrigan, Marie. "MT Senate: Race to Take On Embattled Burns Nears Finish", CQPolitics.com, 31 May 2006.
- Johnson, Charles S. "Tester, Morrison deadlocked", Helena Independent Record, 28 May 2006.
- Jalonick, Mary Clare. "Playing Outsider, Tester Wins Mont. Seat", Associated Press, 8 November 2006.
- U.S. SENATE / MONTANA results, CNN.com, November 2006.
- "Montana". The New York Times.
- Davis, Susan (5 April 2012). "Montana race could tip balance of power in U.S. Senate". USA Today. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- Barabak, Mark Z. (27 February 2011). "Winning the West, Montana style". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- Miller, Scot (August 3, 2006). "Title Not Given.". Great Falls Tribune. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
- "2006 Montana 3-way Senate Debate at MSU". October 9, 2006. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
- Stein, Sam (28 March 2013). "Jon Tester Explains Gay Marriage Evolution". huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 30 March 2013.
- "MTP Transcript for Nov 19", msnbc.com, 19 November 2006.
- Johnson, Charles S. "Dems vow to get Tester on Senate appropriations", Helena Independent Record, 19 October 2006.
- "Tester earns seat on Senate Appropriations Committee". Jon Tester. January 13, 2009. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
- Egan, Timothy (November 13, 2006). "Fresh Off the Farm in Montana, a Senator-to-Be". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- "Jon Tester on the Issues". Ontheissues.org. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
- Steinhauer, Jennifer (10 January 2012). "Loyal to His 4-Legged Constituents". The New York Times. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
- Catanese, David (December 20, 2010). "Jon Tester draws ire of liberals". Politico. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
- Raju, Manu; Wong, Scott (17 October 2011). "Jon Tester, Ben Nelson unsure on teachers bill". Politico. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home - Votes - Roll Call Vote". senate.gov. December 24, 2009. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
- "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home - Votes - Roll Call Vote". senate.gov. March 25, 2010. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
- "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home - Votes - Roll Call Vote". senate.gov. December 18, 2010. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
- "Senate Vote 281 - Repeals 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- Bolton, Alexander (April 20, 2011). "Swipe-fee opponents shower Sen. Tester with campaign contributions". The Hill. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
- Foley, Elise (June 8, 2011). "Jon Tester Faces Opposition From Montana Voters On Swipe Fees". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
- Carter, Zach (May 19, 2011). "Jon Tester Backpedals In Multibillion-Dollar Swipe Fee Fight". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
- James, Frank (30 January 2012). "Sen. Jon Tester Decries Citizens United's Impact In Montana, Nationally". Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- Palmer, Anna; Bravender, Robin (March 2, 2012). "Max Baucus, Jon Tester investigation called for by Montana GOP". Politico. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
- Romano, Andrew (1 May 2011). "The Democrats' Last, Best Hope". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- Chaney, Rob (26 May 2011). "Tester's Forest Jobs and Recreation Act draws mixed reviews". The Missoulian. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- Michael Barone, et al. The Almanac of American Politics 2014 (2013) (Kindle Location 48402)
- Barone, The Almanac of American Politics 2014 (Kindle Locations 48474-48476)
- Ben White, "Democratic opposition dooms Larry Summers's Fed chances," POLITICO Sept. 15, 2013
- McKee, Jennifer. "Mr. Tester Goes to Washington". Montana Magazine. 2007-01-15. Article quoted at Jon Tester's official Senate website. Retrieved 2009-12-26.
- "Jon Tester: The Right Man to Represent Montana". testerforsenate.com.. Retrieved 2009-12-26.
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Project Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at The Library of Congress
|Party political offices|
|Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Montana
|United States Senate|
|U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Montana
Served alongside: Max Baucus, John Walsh
|United States order of precedence (ceremonial)|
as U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Rhode Island
|Order of Precedence of the United States||Succeeded by
as U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Wyoming
|Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
|United States order of precedence (ceremonial)|