Jon Tester: Wikis


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Jon Tester

Assumed office 
January 3, 2007
Serving with Max Baucus
Preceded by Conrad Burns

In office
2005 – 2007
Governor Brian Schweitzer
Deputy Dan Harrington
President pro tempore
Succeeded by Mike Cooney

Born August 21, 1956 (1956-08-21) (age 53)
Havre, Montana
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Sharla Tester
Children Christine Tester
Shon Tester
Residence Big Sandy, Montana
Alma mater University of Great Falls
Occupation Organic Farmer
Religion Church of God (Anderson)

Jon Tester (born August 21, 1956) is an organic farmer and junior U.S. Senator from the state of Montana, and a member of the Democratic Party. Prior to his election in 2006, he served as President of the Montana State Senate.


Personal life


Early life and career

Tester was born in Havre, Montana, one of three sons of Helen Marie (Pearson) and David O. Tester.[1] Havre is also the birthplace of Jeff Ament, bassist for rock band Pearl Jam;[2] in 2005, the band played a benefit concert in Missoula in support of Tester's U.S. Senate bid.[3]

Tester grew up in Chouteau County, near the town of Big Sandy, Montana, on the land that his grandfather homesteaded in 1916.[4] At the age of 9, he lost the middle three fingers of his left hand in a meat-grinder accident.[5]

In 1978, he graduated from the University of Great Falls with a B.S. in music.[6] He 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.[7] He and his wife continue to operate the farm; in the 1980s, they changed over from conventional to organic farming,[8] raising wheat, barley, lentils, peas, millet, buckwheat, and alfalfa.[6]


During Tester's senior year in college, he married Sharla Bitz.[9][10] Like Jon, Sharla Tester comes from an agricultural family and grew up in north-central Montana.[4] The couple has two children: a daughter Christine, born in 1980; and a son Shon, born in 1985.[9]

Political career

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.

Tester was first elected to the Montana State Senate in 1998. He was elected the minority whip for the 2001 session. After being re-elected in 2002, he became minority leader for the 2003 session. 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 would have prohibited Tester from running for state Senate for a third time. 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.

2006 U.S. Senate race

Tester announced his candidacy in May 2005 for the U.S. Senate seat held by incumbent Republican 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 collected $1.05 million as of the start of 2006, including $409,241 in the last three months of 2005,[11] but "Morrison’s advantages in fundraising and name identification have not translated into a lead in the polls,"[12] most of which showed the race exceedingly tight, some calling it a "deadlock" as of late May.[13]

On June 6, 2006, Tester won the Democratic primary by a margin of over 25 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 198,302 votes versus 195,455 for Burns. Tester was declared the winner on Nov. 8, 2006.[14][15] 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.

Political views

The political watchdog group has ranked him a "Moderate Liberal" [1]. He has made government reform a top priority issue. Tester criticized Republicans in Congress for making policy that is designed "for those who write the biggest campaign checks" [2]. He has stated that Washington culture is "controlled by K Street cronies." [3].He has spoken against gay marriage and flag burning, but sees Constitutional bans on each issue as unnecessary. 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.

Tester is a more liberal Democrat on other issues. 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, but 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 that "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."[4]. Tester is also a strong supporter of alternative energy, voting to increase wind and solar power funding and decrease emissions. He states that the Kyoto Protocol needs American support in order to have global legitimization.

Tester voted to confirm President Obama's first U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor.

Committee Promises

During a Billings press conference, the Tester campaign released a statement from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pledging to give Tester a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee, regardless of whether Democrats wrest control of the Senate from Republicans. Senator Tester was not placed on the Appropriations Committee in his first session. The release, however, did say “as soon as possible." [5]

On January 13, 2009, Tester's second session of Congress, he was given a seat on the Appropriations Committee. [6]

Senate career

Committee assignments

Electoral History

Montana U.S. Senate Election 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Jon Tester 199,845 49.2
Republican Conrad Burns (Incumbent) 196,283 48.3 -2.3


  1. ^ "Jon Tester’s mother dies at age 89". Missoulian. 2009-06-30. Retrieved 2009-12-26.
  2. ^ "Biography for Jeff Ament". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2009-12-25.
  3. ^ Weber, Jonathan. "Pearl Jam Rocks for Senate Candidate Tester". NewWest. 2005-08-30. Retrieved 2009-12-25.
  4. ^ a b "Jon Tester: The Right Man to Represent Montana". Retrieved 2009-12-26.
  5. ^ Klein, Joe. "The Democrats' New Populism", Time, 02 July 2006.
  6. ^ a b "Biography". U.S. Senate website. Retrieved 2009-12-26.
  7. ^ "Jon Tester (D-Mont.)" Retrieved 2009-12-26.
  8. ^ Lowery, Courtney. "The 'Good Guy' Running for U.S. Senate", NewWest, 28 August 2005.
  9. ^ a b Mckee, Jennifer. "Mr. Tester Goes to Washington". Montana Magazine. 2007-01-15. Article quoted at John Tester's official Senate website. Retrieved 2009-12-26.
  10. ^ "Jon Tester". Guide to House and Senate Members. Retrieved 2009-12-26.
  11. ^ Johnson, Charles S. "Burns' fundraising nears $5 million; Morrison's hits $1 million",, 28 August 2005.
  12. ^ Horrigan, Marie. "MT Senate: Race to Take On Embattled Burns Nears Finish",, 31 May 2006.
  13. ^ Johnson, Charles S. "Tester, Morrison deadlocked", Helena Independent Record, 28 May 2006
  14. ^ Jalonick, Mary Clare. "Playing Outsider, Tester Wins Mont. Seat", Associated Press, 8 November 2006
  15. ^ U.S. SENATE / MONTANA results,, November 2006.

External links


United States Senate
Preceded by
Conrad Burns
United States Senator (Class 1) from Montana
2007 – present
Served alongside: Max Baucus
United States order of precedence
Preceded by
Sheldon Whitehouse
D-Rhode Island
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
John Barrasso


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