Former Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg eyes congressional comeback

In this June 16, 2011, file photo, Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., waves before the first debate against incumbent Jon Tester in Big Sky, Mont. Former Montana U.S. Rep. Rehberg is joining a Washington, D.C.-based public-strategy firm as a co-chairman with several other former congressmen. (AP Photo/Michael Albans, File)

Former Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) is mulling another bid for the U.S. House, a decade after he left Congress.

Rehberg told Politico that he may enter the race for Montana’s 2nd District, which is likely to be open in the next election if, as expected, current GOP Rep. Matt Rosendale announces a bid for U.S. Senate as early as this weekend. 

“I got kind of emotional about it on Friday night, and started thinking and started getting phone calls and people saying, ‘You know, we really think that maybe you have a lot to offer us,'” Rehberg said in the interview with Politico. “I haven’t made the decision. But maybe I could do this and go back and make a difference.”

Rehberg left Congress in January 2013 after losing a U.S. Senate election in November 2012 to Democrat Jon Tester. It was the second time Rehberg had lost a Senate race to a Democrat: He was defeated by incumbent Democratic Sen. Max Baucus in 1996.

Rehberg, for his part, was first elected to Congress in 2001. During his 12 years in the House, he voted against abortion and LGBTQ rights.

In 2006, Rehberg voted for a resolution that would have declared that “marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.” The resolution failed.

In 2012, Rehberg voted for a bill that would have banned abortion in the District of Columbia. That bill also failed. 

Since leaving Congress, Rehberg has been a registered lobbyist.

Many of the companies he has lobbied for are for-profit education companies, including Capella University, which settled a lawsuit in 2022 with students who said they were misled by the company’s advertised graduation rates. 

Rehberg also lobbied for the student loan company Navient, which settled a lawsuit for $1.85 billion in 2022 with 39 states that had accused the company of making predatory loans. 

If Rehberg enters the 2nd District U.S. House race, he would face a competitive GOP primary. Other GOP candidates running include State Auditor Troy Downing, state Senate President Pro Tempore Ken Bogner, State Superintendent Elsie Arntzen, former state Sens. Ric Holden and Ed Walker, and former state Rep. Joel Krautter. 

Whoever emerges from the primary is likely to win the seat in November. Former President Donald Trump carried the 2nd District by nearly 27 points in 2020.

The seat is not rated as competitive by the nonpartisan political analysis outlet Inside Elections.