The Montana Senate race is on fire -- literally.
When Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and his GOP opponent Denny Rehberg squared off in a debate last night, the senator attacked the congressman over a lawsuit he filed against the city fire department in Billings. But it was hardly a surprise that Tester delved into the issue during the debate: He and Democratic groups have launched four different television ads on the topic since Friday, in an October pivot to focus on the lawsuit.
From the Associated Press story on the debate, which took place in Billings:
In closing, Tester identified most in the capacity crowd of about 500 as residents of Billings as he brought up Rehberg's lawsuit against the city fire department for a wildfire on his land.
"Congressman Rehberg has sued each and every one of you," Tester said. "(Firefighters) put their butt on the line. You don't turn around and respond by filing a lawsuit with monetary damages. That is what you did."
Rehberg didn't waste time getting back to his campaign's primary theme.
"No one has brought up the fire lawsuit, except for you," Rehberg said of his meetings around Montana with voters. "You know what they talk about? The irresponsible decisions of supporting President Obama 95 percent of the time."
On Friday, Tester's campaign
, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
, and Majority PAC
all went up with new television ads attacking Rehberg for suing the Billings fire department over a fire at his ranch.
And for good measure, the DSCC followed up Monday with a second ad
hammering on the same topic.
While the ad race hadn't previously paid much attention to the lawsuit, it makes sense for Tester and the Democrats to try to keep the focus on local issues and on Rehberg's character during the home stretch. The Republican has repeatedly tied his opponent to President Obama
in a state where Mitt Romney
is expected to win easily next month.
The Montana contest remains one of the closest Senate races in the country.