Montana state Sen. Jon Sonju was on Capitol Hill last week meeting with GOP-aligned groups ahead of a potential House bid in 2014.
Sonju, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor last year, spent much of Thursday at the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is preparing for a potential Senate bid by freshman GOP Rep. Steve Daines.
If Daines runs for Senate — very likely at this point — Republicans expect a crowded field of Republicans for his at-large House seat in the Big Sky State. Along with Sonju, the NRCC has also been in contact with former state Sen. Corey Stapleton, state Sen. Matt Rosendale and former state Sen. Ryan Zinke.Sonju's trip included meetings with NRCC Chairman Greg Walden and outside groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, American Crossroads and the National Rifle Association. Sonju has also signed up longtime Montana GOP strategist Erik Iverson, who now works for polling firm Moore Information.
“I’ve been around state politics for 10 years and was the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor — and barely lost that race,” Sonju said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “This is a little bit different than running at the state level, so I wanted to put a face behind a name.”
Sonju said he is waiting for Daines to make a decision before officially joining the race, but he has “both feet in.”
Along with his legislative service, Sonju works for his family-owned aerospace company and gun manufacturing business, SI Defense, which specializes in AR-15 rifles. He intends to draw on that business background as a selling point in the primary.
Democrats are also targeting the seat. John Lewis, a former state director for Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., has been named to a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee program that provides early operational and strategic support.
The Senate seat, being vacated by the retiring Baucus, is a top pickup opportunity for Republicans.