HELENA (AP) - U.S. Sen. Jon Tester reported Thursday that he raised more than $1 million in the first quarter of his heavyweight matchup against U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, making it clear the race will very likely be the most expensive the state has ever seen.

Montana's Republican congressman announced early in the year he would be challenge the first-term Democratic senator in 2012. The race may be one of a handful that could determine control of the U.S. Senate, and a recent poll showed Rehberg and Tester about even.

Rehberg's challenge to Tester sets up a contest between the undisputed leader of the Montana Republican Party and a populist Democratic senator who in his first term has returned home to work on his Big Sandy farm on weekends. Both parties expect a multi-million dollar slugfest that is sure to be a marquee race as Republicans try to make more gains around the country.

Republicans are eyeing Montana, with its history of voting for Republican presidents, as a possible pickup.

And it is clear Democrats are rallying around Tester, generally well-liked by the rank-and-file for his regular guy demeanor.

Tester's campaign reported in the fundraising filings that it raised nearly $1.2 million in the first three months of the year and had about $1.5 million on hand. Rehberg's numbers were not immediately available.

Montana State University political scientist David Parker, who is following the race closely, said Tester's numbers confirm the race is drawing a lot of interest.

"It's a strong and solid report, and it shows he is doing well with his fundraising operation," Parker said. "Overall, I would say this is a good amount of money."

Observers expect the race will break campaign money records in Montana and flood the small media market with political advertising from both campaigns and their outside interest groups.

In 2006, Tester raised $5.5 million when he upset incumbent U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, who raised $9.4 at the time. With 19 months left to Election Day, it appears those figures could look average this time around. Tester has legislation pending that would require all Senate candidates to do so.

Tester also said Thursday he will be voluntarily submitting his finance report on Friday to the Federal Election Commission for easier public viewing, a move U.S. Senate candidates are not required to make.

Bozeman businessman Steve Daines reported that he added raised close to $200,000 in the first quarter in his attempt to keep Rehberg's congressional seat in Republican hands. Daines announced a challenge to Tester last year, only to switch to the U.S. House race when Rehberg announced he was vacating it to challenge Tester.

In Total, Daines has raised more than $400,000. Reports were not immediately available from Franke Wilmer, one Democrat to so far announce for the race.


Original Report:

HELENA (AP) — U.S. Sen. Jon Tester's campaign reports that it raised more than $1 million in the first quarter of what promises to be a long, expensive race against challenger Denny Rehberg.

Tester's office says it raised nearly $1.2 million in the first three months of the year and had about $1.5 million on hand. Rehberg's numbers were not immediately available.

Montana's Republican congressman announced early in the year he would be challenge the first-term Democratic senator in 2012. The race may be one of a handful that could determine control of the U.S. Senate.

It pits Rehberg, the undisputed leader of the Montana Republican Party, against Tester, who rode his populist appeal to the 2006 win over incumbent Conrad Burns.

A recent poll shows Rehberg and Tester about even.

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