Biography

Jon Tester is a third-generation Montana dirt farmer who brings his Montana values with him to the U.S. Senate.

Where Jon got his Montana values

Jon was born in Havre in 1956. He grew up on land in Chouteau County that his grandparents homesteaded in 1912 — and he grew up with their values, too. A meat grinder accident cost Jon three fingers at age 9, but a childhood steeped in family agriculture gave him the values that have defined his career.

Jon first saw Sharla Bitz — who also came from a Montana farm family — sitting in a church pew. They became high school sweethearts, and got married during Jon’s senior year at the University of Great Falls.

After Jon graduated with a music degree, he taught music at F. E. Miley Elementary School in Big Sandy. Around the time Jon and Sharla’s daughter Christine was born, the Testers moved back to his grandparents’ farm and butcher shop. Their son, Shon, was born a few years later. Jon and Sharla continue to work the land in Big Sandy.

Montana values in action

When the Testers’ neighbor decided to retire from the Montana Senate, Jon, fed up with huge rate hikes following the disastrous deregulation of Montana’s energy industry, ran for the seat — and won. And in 2005, fed up with rampant corruption and irresponsible decision-making out in Washington, Jon decided to run for the U.S. Senate — and won.

Jon immediately made history as the first member of Congress to post his daily public schedule on his website. He helped pass sweeping ethics reform, and then went beyond those rules and banned all gifts, meals, and travel from lobbyists for himself and for his staff. He barred any staffers who become lobbyists from lobbying him or being rehired. And he began posting all of his requests for funding for Montana projects on his website for Montanans to see. Jon’s record on transparency has earned him the title, “Montana’s advocate for accountability.”

As a United States Senator, Jon isn’t just holding himself accountable, but holding all of Washington accountable. He stands up to special interests, calls out government waste when he sees it, and even takes on his own party when he believes it’s the right thing to do for Montana.

For instance, in 2008, he bucked his party and became the only Senate Democrat to vote against taxpayer bailouts of both Wall Street and the U.S. auto industry. He didn’t need to spin his vote.  He simply said, “I’m against bailouts.”

Meanwhile, Jon has worked hard to deliver for Montana families. He is a strong defender of Medicare and Social Security, a strong supporter of quality public education and access to affordable health care, and a strong advocate for rural America and Montana’s unique way of life.

Jon’s first order of business after taking office was a listening tour with Montana’s veterans. From his seat on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, he took what he heard and turned it into action. His accomplishments include the landmark Rural Veterans Health Care Improvement Act and the VOW to Hire Heroes Act.

In addition, he regularly hosts small business workshops, bringing thousands of Montanans together with industry leaders to boost jobs through innovation, marketing, and increased export opportunities.

Sporting his trademark flattop haircut ($10, including tip), Jon Tester needs no introduction to the Montanans he meets. After all, he’s always been one of them.

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