Retired state district judge Russ Fagg made it official: he’s a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. The announcement comes after a 4 month exploratory effort that Democrats have called a stealth campaign.
"I love the people of the state," says Fagg, standing on a flatbed trailer parked in a helicopter hanger at Billings Flying Service. "I love the natural beauty of the state and so tonight for the very first time I am publicly announcing that I am going to run for the U.S. Senate."
Supporters were tipped off early to the news as they entered the event venue. The campaign signs that used to say “exploratory committee” were replaced with the words “Jobs First Montana always.”
"Every decision I make I’m going to ask myself 2 questions. The first question is: Does this add to jobs for Montanans or does it subtract from jobs for Montanans? The second question is: Is this good for Montanans or it it bad for Montanans?" Fagg says he will put each decision to that test, "That’s why my slogan came together and that’s the promise I make."
Fagg says in his 22-years on the bench he’s seen all kinds of tragedy. He estimates he's heard 25,000 cases. He believes at the core of a lot of those stemmed from a lack of hope, "Because if we can could raise jobs and opportunities and increase the economy and reduce poverty a lot of these issues would be easier for people to deal with. I mean lack of money and lack of opportunity is a huge part of this equation."
Fagg joins a growing field of Republicans vying for the chance to take on incumbent Democrat Jon Tester, who is seeking a third term.
Fagg, a former legislator from Billings, is considered by Democrats as one of – if not the top – contender since he announced last June he would retire before the end of his elected term as state District Judge in Yellowstone County. Soon after that announcement, he launched an exploratory campaign.
Democratic Party spokesman Chris Meagher had charged that Fagg, who was supposed to be impartial and objective and not subject to any sort of influence as a sitting judge, has been accepting money from secret donors and running a secret campaign. Meagher says there’s a pending Federal Elections Commission complaint against him.
Fagg has denied he has violated any judicial or campaign ethics.
Montana’s primary election is June 5, 2017.