Voices: Can this gigantic farmer from Montana get answers on UFOs – and keep his Senate seat as a Democrat?
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that Senator Jon Tester of Montana would lead Democrats’ inquiries into flying objects that have entered US airspace in recent weeks. The announcement came after the Senate was briefed on the influx of UFOs in recent weeks.
Over the weekend, Mr Tester, a three-term senator, tweeted was aware of a flying object in Montana’s airspace and, more tellingly, said he supported the move to shoot it out of the sky.
Mr Tester is one of three Democratic senators – along with Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sherrod Brown of Ohio – who represents a state that Donald Trump won twice but has yet to announce whether he will seek another term. But the new task gives Mr Tester a chance to look like he is holding the administration accountable about flying objects and create some daylight between himself and the White House, particularly if he ultimately decides to run again.
Sporting a flat-top haircut and clocking in at 300 pounds and six-feet tall with three missing left fingers he lost in a meat grinder as a child, Mr Tester looks the part of someone from Big Sky Country. Back home in Big Sandy, he runs a farm and regularly shoots off profanities. When I noted to him last week how Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senator John Fetterman is even bigger than him, he told me “yeah, no s***.”
When The Independent caught up with Mr Tester on Wednesday, he described what he wanted to investigate.
“I think it’s more about how we’re preparing for detection and determination and how we bring them down and how we have a plan to do what we got to do,” he said. “I think moving forward, we’ve got to do a better job of detecting of determining if they’re really a threat, and then how we bring them down.”
When asked about the Biden administration’s response, he said, “So far so good. They’ve been they’ve been responsive to me.“
Mr Tester also said he will make a decision about re-election “hopefully, pretty soon.”
Democrats hope that he will announce he will run for another term since they see him as the best shot to hold the crucial seat in Montana in an uphill year for Senate Democrats.
But he will face a steep challenge. He won his first Senate race in 2006, during a wave of dissatisfaction with the Iraq War and George W Bush’s administration. This was back when Democrats could still appeal to rural areas. He won another term in 2012 even as Barack Obama lost the state after nearly winning it in 2008. In 2018, Mr Tester pulled off the unthinkable, winning as the one of only two Democrats, along with Mr Brown, from a swing seat that after opposing Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court (Mr Manchin voted to confirm Mr Kavanaugh).
Mr Tester will face a tougher challenge in 2024 if he seeks another term, given that President Joe Biden lost the state by double digits. Unlike Mr Manchin, Mr Tester is more of a loyal foot soldier to Mr Biden, having supported Build Back Better before it withered.
But he also made significant accomplishments this term. He was part of a bipartisan negotiating group that passed the infrastructure law, which included now-independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who has become a good friend despite Mr Tester’s potty mouth and Mr Romney’s Latter-Day Saint disposition. As chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Mr Tester also led the successful charge to give health benefits service members who suffered health complications from burn pits.
Still, during last week’s State of the Union, as Mr Biden worked the room, he gave Mr Tester a hearty handshake and called him “Big Jon” as the senator gave the president a gigantic grin.
All in all, the UFO probe is the perfect opportunity for Mr Tester to criticise the administration – and perhaps save his seat in the process.