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Profile of Sen. Jon Tester of Montana


Profile of Sen. Jon Tester of Montana

Photo Courtesy of the Jon Tester for Senate Campaign

Sen. Jon Tester of Montana:

Jon Tester, former Montana State Senate President , was elected US Senator from Montana in 2006 with a razor-thin margin over incumbent Republican Conrad Burns. Sen Tester was reelected to a second term in 2012.

Tester is a third-generation Montana farmer and a natural leader with terrific, homegrown political skills honed in the state legislature. He regards energy independence and renewable energy sources as top US priorities, and dubs the Iraq War "a mistake."

Jon Tester on the Issues:

Tester lists energy independence and renewable energy sources as top US priorities. He wants to expand public health care insurance to cover all uninsured children.

Tester calls the Iraq War "a mistake," and urges a rational withdrawal plan. He's appalled by the federal budget deficit and pledges "to restore fiscal responsibility to Washington."

As Montana Senate President, he sponsored 2 successful wind energy bills, and a bill to pay for Medicare prescription drugs for low-income seniors.

Senate Committees in 112th Congress, 2011-2012:

  • Appropriations Committee
  • Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs Committee
  • Banking Subcommittee on Financial Institutions
  • Banking Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, & Community Development
  • Banking Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance, & Investment
  • Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee
  • Homeland Subcommittee on State, Local & Private Sector Preparedness
  • Veterans' Affairs Committee
  • Indian Affairs Committee

Jon Tester's Political Leadership:

Tester's first foray into politics was as member, then Chair of the Big Sandy School Board of Trustees. He was also a member of two local soil conservation and agriculture committees.

Angered by huge energy rate hikes, Tester ran and won his 1998 race for the Montana legislature. He was elected minority whip in 2001, and after his reelection in 2002, became minority leader. In 2005, 4-term state senator Jon Tester was elected presiding officer of the Montana Senate.

Jon Tester, Montana Farmer:

After college graduation, third-generation farmer Tester taught elementary school music for 2 years before returning to farming as his primary livelihood.

In 1985, Tester converted the family wheat and barley farm to more profitable organic crops of buckwheat, wheat, peas, alfalfa and others. "I do some of my best thinking on a tractor," Tester told Time in July 2006, which noted that Tester recently took time off from the campaign to seed his farm.

Personal Data:

  • Birth - August 21, 1956 in Havre, Montana, the youngest of 3 sons born to second generation Montana farmers
  • Education - Big Sandy High School in Montana, 1974. BS in Music, University of Great Falls, 1978, with endorsement to teach music at K-12 levels.
  • Family - Married since 1978 to Sharla. Two adult children, Christine (married) and Shon. One granddaughter.
  • Faith - Christian

Jon and Sharla Tester:

Jon and Sharla met at a church function during Jon's sophomore year of college, and married on Labor Day of his senior year. Their parents attended the same church.

Sharla, a fourth generation Montana farmer, was raised in Box Elder, 24 miles from Jon's hometown of Big Sandy. After college, they took over Jon's family's farm, where they still live today.

In 2005, Jon and Sharla were chosen Outstanding Agricultural Leaders by Montana State University.

Jon Tester's Montana Youth:

Jon Tester grew up in a small home 12 miles west of the nearest town (population: 710) on a north central Montana 1,800-acre land parcel homesteaded by his grandfather in 1916. Tester and his 2 brothers worked on the family farm and butcher side-business.

Tester was mesmerized by music as a child. He expertly played the saxophone until he lost 3 left-hand fingers in a meat-grinding machine accident at age 9. He then took up the trumpet, and eventually earned an undergraduate degree in music.

Interesting Personal Notes:

One of Tester's longtime Montana friends is Jeff Argent of rock group Pearl Jam, which held a benefit concert in 2005 to support Tester's senate race.

Tester is variously described as a transformational leader, an inspiring public servant and a straight-shooter who's a stand-up guy... or as a slick populist farmboy and a liberal in hayseed trappings.

He's worn a flattop haircut for 15 years, and professes his commitment to "family, faith and hard work."

Memorable Quotes by Jon Tester:

On Renewable Sources

"That last energy bill worked out very well for the energy companies and hasn't worked out very well for the consumers. We need to focus a lot on renewable (energy sources) to achieve our energy independence. There is tremendous opportunity in wind, solar, ethanol, vegetable oils, hydrogen, methane."

--- Newsweek interview, August 22, 2006

On the War in Iraq

"It's absolutely ironic that Senator Burns thinks things in Iraq are absolutely fine. He's comfortable with no plan... The scary part of this war is right now there is no plan and there's no end in sight. We need a plan and a timeline."

--- The Missoulian, October 14, 2006

On Who Jon Tester Seeks to Represent

One of my very strong tendencies is I'm not afraid to stand up and go against the flow, I'm not afraid to stand up and say what's right, and I'm certainly somebody who's going to represent the average Joe that's on the street.

... I'm an average guy... And I'm not rich. I don't have a ton of money. I know what it's like to balance the checkbook. I know what it's like to struggle to pay bills at the end of the month.

I've done all those things, and I continue to do all of those things even right now as we speak. Finances have always been something that we have struggled with, like most American families have, to buy a home, buy a new car or just pay the insurance bill.

... They're regular people. They're not rich. They work for the dollars they get, and they work hard for them. If they want someone back in Washington, DC who's going to represent everybody, and not fall into this pay-to-play mentality, just represent the upper crust, then I'm their guy."

--- MyDD blog interview on February 27, 2006

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