BILLINGS, Mont. -- Montana Democrat Jon Tester has won a third term in the U.S. Senate by beating Republican Matt Rosendale.
"Right after I won my first race and got appointed to the veteran's affairs committee, I had a listening session early in 2007," said Tester. "I had a Vietnam vet standup and say your not going to treat this group of veterans like we got treated. And I took that to heart."
After winning his third term, Tester promised he would continue to fight for veterans.
Tester was asked after he declared victory, "How does that strengthened Senate majority affect Republicans?"
"The fact of the matter is that I lost some good friends this cycle. Claire McCaskell and Heidi Heitcamp were two of my best friends on the senate. But we move on. I'm sure there are some good people who I'm going to be able to meet over the next few months that we'll be able to find common ground with and work with, and that's ultimately what we'll have to do, " answered Tester.
Tester is a rare survivor from President Donald Trump's aggressive campaign to unseat Democrats in Republican-leaning states.
The president repeatedly returned to Montana, North Dakota, Missouri and Indiana, where he pounded on Tester and other lawmakers who opposed his Supreme Court picks, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.
Conservative groups followed Trump's lead with tens of millions of dollars in attack ads.
In Montana, it boosted Republican state Auditor Matt Rosendale from political obscurity. He came up just short in a race that set a state record for political spending.
But Tester won a third term after ducking Trump's jabs and sticking to a message heavy on health care that was targeted at female voters and veterans.
Montana Senate candidate Matt Rosendale has conceded defeat following a close-fought campaign against incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester.
Spokesman Shane Scanlon said the Republican State auditor spoke with Tester to congratulate him late Wednesday morning.
Rosendale issued a statement thanking his supporters and pledging to continue to work to lower health care costs and hold the line on government spending.
He entered the race relatively unknown. But he came close to denying Tester a third term after President Donald Trump took a personal interest in the race and visited Montana repeatedly on Rosendale's behalf.
Matt Rosendale, the Republican nominee in Montana’s U.S. Senate race, released the following statement:
"Sen. Tester and I have spoken, and I congratulated him on winning this race and wished him well."
"What an incredible journey this has been over the last year and a half. Its been the honor of a lifetime to be your nominee and we couldn’t have gone this far without my wife Jean and our three sons by my side. I’ve been overwhelmed by the support, trust, time and energy received from folks across this state. Thank you to each and every one of you – to our staff, volunteers, and all our grassroots supporters."
"While we suffered a setback, our movement and our cause will continue to move forward. I will never stop working to make our country and state better."
“As your State Auditor, I will continue to fight for you in Helena to lower health care costs and expand options, and hold the line on government spending. My work for the people of Montana is not done and I will continue to serve and always put the people of Montana first.”
Montana Democrat Jon Tester has won a third term in the U.S. Senate by beating Republican Matt Rosendale.
Tester won Tuesday's close election despite President Donald Trump taking a personal interest in defeating him.
Trump and his surrogates made repeated trips to Montana after the president vowed last spring that Tester would pay at the polls for sinking his first nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary, White House physician Ronny Jackson.
Trump's comments led to both Republican and Democratic groups spending tens of millions of dollars in an attempt to influence the outcome of the race.
Tester insisted that Montana voters across the political spectrum would support him after examining his record.
The Montana seat was one of 10 held by Senate Democrats seeking re-election in states Trump won in 2016.
Montana's contentious U.S. Senate race remains too close to call with votes still being tallied in key counties.
Election results are coming in Wednesday for major population centers including Missoula, Gallatin, Cascade and Yellowstone counties.
Campaign representatives say Democratic incumbent Sen. Jon Tester is in Great Falls awaiting the results and Republican State Auditor Matt Rosendale is in Helena.
Rosendale put up a strong challenge with a boost from President Donald Trump. The president vowed last spring that Tester would pay at the polls for releasing allegations that toppled Trump's first nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary.
Republican and Democratic groups spent tens of millions of dollars to influence the outcome of the election in a state Trump won by 20 percentage points in 2016.