Rosendale drops reelection bid, will retire at end of term

Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) announced Friday that he will retire at the end of his current term, a sudden about-face after he said just last week that he would run for reelection.

The news comes after a rocky month for the Montana Republican: He launched a Senate campaign in early February, which he suspended days later after a number of Republicans — including former President Trump — endorsed his primary opponent, prompting him to instead announce another run for his House seat, which he is now dropping.

And it caps off Rosendale’s tenure in the House, during which he became known as a hardline conservative who was one of eight Republicans to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from the top job.

In a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter, Rosendale referenced a death threat against him and “defamatory rumors” targeting him and his family that surfaced after suspending his Senate bid.

“Since that announcement, I have been forced to have law enforcement visit my children because of a death threat against me and false and defamatory rumors against me and my family. This has taken a serious toll on me, and my family. Additionally, it has caused a serious disruption to the election of the next representative for MT-02,” Rosendale wrote.

“To me, public service has truly always been about serving, not titles or positions of power. The current attacks have made it impossible for me to focus on my work to serve you. So, in the best interest of my family and the community, I am withdrawing from the House race and will not be seeking office,” he added.

Rosendale did not elaborate on the threats or allegations against him, but his announcement comes days after former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) alleged in a podcast interview that the Montana Republican dropped his Senate bid because of a rumor that “he impregnated a 20-year-old staff person.”

Rosendale’s team denied Heitkamp’s claim and threatened legal action against the former senator.

“This is 100% false and defamatory and former Senator Heitkamp will be hearing from our lawyers soon,” Ron Kovach, a spokesperson for Rosendale, told Politico in a statement.

Rosendale, 63, was first elected to Congress in 2020, winning the seat in Montana that was left open when Gov. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) announced that he would run for governor.

His retirement opens up a ruby red seat in the Big Sky Country: Montana’s 2nd Congressional District broke for former President Trump by nearly 27 percentage points in 2020.

Rosendale announced on Feb. 9 that he had filed to run for Senate, making his bid official after months of speculation and putting him in direct competition with Republican Tim Sheehy in the primary.

Sheehy, a Montana-based businessman, had locked up endorsements from the key Republicans even before Rosendale’s announcement, including Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), and Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.).

That block of support solidified after Rosendale jumped in the race when Trump threw his support behind Sheehy over Rosendale hours after he announced his run.

And in another blow to the Montana Republican’s young bid, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) reversed his plans to endorse his House colleague. Greg Steele, communications director for the Speaker’s political operation, said Johnson planned to send a contribution to Rosendale but “has not made any endorsements in the Senate races.”

Republicans had been concerned that Rosendale, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, would not fare as well as Sheehy against incumbent Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who is a key target for GOP lawmakers this cycle. Rosendale lost to Tester in 2018.

Rosendale ultimately scrapped his Senate bid on Feb. 15, just six days after rolling it out, referencing Trump’s support for Sheehy in a statement.

“I have long been a supporter of the President, and remain so. But I have been forced to calculate what my chances of success would be with Trump supporting my opponent,” Rosendale said.

On Feb. 28, Rosendale announced that he would run for re-election to the House, writing in a statement “I can be the most effective, and serving Montana in Congress has truly been the honor and privilege of a lifetime,” a bid that would come to a close just over one week later.

Updated: 2:25 p.m. ET

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