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How will battle over Kavanaugh confirmation play in MT’s Senate race?

Posted at 5:41 PM, Oct 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-10 14:49:35-04

HELENA – U.S. Sen. Jon Tester isn’t apologizing for his vote against the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, saying the judge’s record on privacy and other issues goes against Montana values.

Tester’s Republican opponent, Matt Rosendale, says he would have supported Kavanaugh, and, in a new campaign ad, says Tester is allied with the “radical left” that smeared Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee.

How this politically charged issue will affect in Montana’s high-profile U.S. Senate contest this election year remains to be seen. Montana absentee voters can start casting ballots next week.

Tester and 47 other Senate Democrats voted “no” last Saturday against Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Kavanaugh was confirmed as the Supreme Court’s newest justice, 50-48, with only one Democrat in the “yes” column.

Jon Tester
Montana Democratic US Senator Jon Tester (MTN News photo)

Tester announced his vote on Kavanaugh two weeks ago.

This week, he told MTN News that his research shows that Kavanaugh, while working for the George W. Bush administration, helped design a “mass surveillance program” in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to “spy on law-abiding citizens.”

“That’s unacceptable; it violates the 4th Amendment (of the Constitution), in my opinion,” Tester said.

Tester also said Kavanaugh supported the Patriot Act, which allows the government to “delve into our private homes,” and that Kavanaugh believes that “dark money in elections is entirely proper.”

“That’s not a Montana value and certainly not something that I support,” he said. “And so, for those reasons, I felt that he was the wrong person for the court.”

Montana Republican US Senate candidate Matt Rosendale (MTN News photo)

Rosendale, the state’s insurance commissioner, has made Tester’s opposition to Trump Supreme Court judicial nominees a key part of his campaign.

“He voted against Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, who has proven to be very effective on the (court),” Rosendale told MTN News in a recent interview. “The people of Montana want somebody like that, who’s going to simply review the law and take a vote on it, based upon the founder’s intent … and not as per a new progressive agenda.”

Rosendale also has said he was “disgusted” with how Democrats acted during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, saying they decided some time ago to obstruct the process, rather than responsibly investigate claims against the appellate court judge.

In a recently released ad, Rosendale’s campaign refers to “unfounded claims” and a “media circus” at the Kavanaugh hearings, and says “Tester invented it.”

Tester said he thought the confirmation process for Kavanaugh was “far, far, far too politicized” and should have been handled differently – but that he made his decision based on Kavanaugh’s record.

He noted that Rosendale came out in support of Kavanaugh almost immediately after the nomination was announced.

“The confirmation of a Supreme Court justice is critically important, maybe one of the most important jobs we do; this is a lifetime appointment,” Tester said. “The bottom line is, we check into these judges’ backgrounds and make sure that they’re fit to be in those important positions.”

Tester has voted to confirm about two-thirds of Trump’s nominees to serve as judges on the federal bench, for both district and appellate circuit courts.

-Mike Dennison reporting for MTN News