Jon Tester (born August 21, 1956) is the junior U.S. Senator for Montana, serving since 2007. He is a member of the Democratic Party. He previously served as President of the Montana Senate.
Tester was born in Havre, Montana, one of three sons of Helen Marie (Pearson) and David O. Tester. Tester grew up in Chouteau County, near the town of Big Sandy, Montana, on the land that his grandfather homesteaded in 1916. At the age of 9, he lost the middle three fingers of his left hand in a meat-grinder accident.
In 1978, he graduated from the University of Great Falls with a B.S. in music. 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. He and his wife continue to operate the farm; in the 1980s, they changed over from conventional to organic farming, raising wheat, barley, lentils, peas, millet, buckwheat, and alfalfa.
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,but "Morrison’s advantages in fundraising and name identification have not translated into a lead in the polls,"most of which showed the race exceedingly tight, some calling it a "deadlock" as of late May.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.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. Tester supported President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; he voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009, and he voted for the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. Tester voted to confirm President Obama's U.S. Supreme Court nominees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. On December 18, 2010, Tester voted in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010.