Sen. Jon Tester will be the new chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democratic leaders announced to their caucus Thursday.
The Montana Democrat takes the helm of the campaign arm after a series of painful Democratic loses in 2014. But Tester has a much easier job to look forward to in 2016 than outgoing Chairman Michael Bennet had this past cycle. The Senate battleground is largely favorable to Democrats, who have just 10 incumbents to defend. Republicans, meanwhile, have 24 seats in play, many in blue and purple states, giving Democrats an opportunity to regain the majority.
As a red-state Democrat, Tester shares a profile with some of his party's most vulnerable members, many of whom lost their seats this year, and he has experience he can draw on in protecting embattled 2016 candidates.
The chairmanship will also give Tester a seat at the leadership table, a place where he freely admits he hasn't always been welcome. But the Democrat clearly made a good impression on Majority Leader Harry Reid when the two met about the job Wednesday. Reid and Bennet are the two top targets for the GOP in 2016 and they will be reliant on Tester's operation for resources.
Tester had competed for the job along with several other Democrats who indicated their interest earlier this year. Among the top candidates was Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, who was floated for the job as early as September. But Coons withdrew himself from consideration. "He ultimately decided it wasn't the right time for him to do it," Coons spokesman Ian Koski said in an email. "Senator Coons has three teenagers at home, and the travel commitments of the DSCC chair are brutal. He's also inherently a pretty bipartisan guy and was concerned it would be harder to make real progress on some of his legislative priorities while running the DSCC. Senator Coons has offered to help Senator Tester however he can and looks forward to winning back the majority."