In Missoula on Saturday, Montana PBS presented the first debate between incumbent U.S. Senator Jon Tester and his Republican challenger Matt Rosendale at the studios with no public audience on the University of Montana campus.

The first question from opening statements centered on last week’s Senate Judiciary hearing that featured testimony by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

After chiding Rosendale for missing the first scheduled debate in June sponsored by the Montana Broadcasters Association, Senator Tester said his efforts to meet with Kavanaugh were unsuccessful, but despite the lack of personal contact, he explained why he intended to vote ‘no’ on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“I made a decision yesterday to vote ‘no’ on Judge Kavanaugh,” said the two-term incumbent. “I don’t think he has the merits or the background to meet the merits of the Supreme Court. I don’t think he understands the challenges we have here in Montana from a Fourth Amendment privacy standpoint that would meet our needs.”

Rosendale responded by stating that Tester was not truthful in his statements that he made a good faith effort to meet privately with Judge Kavanaugh.

“The Washington Democrats made a decision 60 days ago that they were going to obstruct this process,” said Rosendale. “Jon gave us his word three months ago that he was at least going to take the time to meet with Judge Kavanaugh, and he didn’t. He put off the meetings, he put off the meetings. At one point, Jon, you cam out and said that the White House cancelled your meeting, and then had to retract that statement, it just wasn’t so, and so myself, and a lot of the people across this nation are very disturbed over the way this process was handled.”

After going back and forth over several other topics, including public lands, women’s health care and education, the debate wrapped up with closing comments from both participants, starting with Tester emphasizing his Montana roots, and that Rosendale was a rich out-of-state developer.

“Commissioner Rosendale, someone who is a developer from Maryland who made his millions there and came to Montana and bought a ranch,” he said. “Claimed to be rancher, but has no cows. He doesn’t understand public lands, doesn’t understand healthcare and doesn’t understand education. The choice is obvious. I would appreciate your vote on election day.”

Rosendale ended by reminding Montanans of Tester’s own words when he first took office.

“Jon stood before the people of Montana 10 or 12 years ago and said that there was a problem with lobbyists’ money being involved in our elections, and he would not be encumbered by it,” Rosendale said. “Yet, he’s the largest recipient of lobbyists’ contributions in the nation. Jon stood here 12 years ago and said there was a problem in Washington, D.C. and he has since increased the debt ceiling 11 times and increased the national debt from $8 trillion to over $21 trillion.”

(Audio provided courtesy of Montana PBS)