Senate Democrat: Issue of aging senators ‘needs to be addressed by the voters’

Montana Sen. Jon Tester (D), running for re-election in what is expected to be one of the tightest Senate races in 2024, said the age of Congress is something that weighs on his mind.

“I think it needs to be addressed by the voters,” Tester, who is 66 and vying for his fourth term, told NBC News.

The age of members of Congress has increasingly been in the spotlight after Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), 90, was hospitalized again last week after being absent for over two months earlier this year due to prior health issues. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), 81, sparked discussion about his age he froze during a press conference late last month.

“I mean, look, the last thing I want to have happen is stay there too long,” Tester said. “I’ve watched it happen too many times in my time in the Senate, and it’s a pitiful thing to watch, where really good people, both sides of the aisle, really, really good people, have stellar careers in public service, really deteriorate to the point where they’re just a shell of what they formerly were. But the voters know that; the voters know that. They can see what I can see.”

The Senate continues to get older over time as the House gets younger, a Pew Research analysis found in January. The average age of the Senate is 65.3 years as of the 118th Congress and has risen with every congress in recent years. Comparatively, it was 62.4 years old in 2017.

Tester said he doesn’t have the same age concerns for President Biden, 80.

“He’s doing a good job. I think folks are making a bigger deal out of it than it is,” Tester said. “But, you know, we’ll see what I’m like at 82. I doubt I’ll be running for president.”

Republicans may face a contested primary to take on Tester, as Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) is considering a run against businessman Tim Sheehy for the nomination. Tester defeated Rosendale in 2018.

Sheehy appears to be the preferred pick of the Montana GOP establishment. He’s already gained the endorsements of the Montana Republicans Gov. Greg Gianforte, Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Ryan Zinke.

Tester faces a tough challenge as Montana has voted for the Republican presidential candidate in every election since 1992. Former President Trump took the state in 2020 with a very strong 56 percent of the vote.

The 2020 election also saw popular incumbent Gov. Steve Bullock (D) fall in a Senate race to Daines by a 10-point margin.

But Tester defied those odds three times before, winning his first 2006 election by just a single percent.

“People are going to come after me,” he said last year. “They’ve come after me in the past, but that’s politics. And we’ll get through it and then hopefully be successful come November of 2024.”

He has proven popular in public opinion polling despite the apparent political leanings of the state. He is the most popular Senator facing a competitive challenge in 2024, with 60 percent approval, a Morning Consult poll found.

Democrats also face difficult races in Ohio and West Virginia as Sens. Sherrod Brown and Joe Manchin end their current terms. While Brown’s campaign has been up and running, Manchin has yet to announce his 2024 intentions

The West Virginian recently announced that he is considering leaving the Democratic Party altogether.

Tags 2024 Senate elections congress age Greg Gianforte Joe Manchin Jon Tester Jon Tester Matt Rosendale Mitch McConnell Montana montana senate race Ryan Zinke Sherrod Brown Steve Bullock Steve Daines