Montana U.S. House candidate and state Senator Mark Sweeney dies

Mark Sweeney, a Montana state senator who was seeking election to the U.S. House of Representatives, died suddenly Friday. He was 62.

A Democrat, Sweeney passed from natural causes at home in Philipsburg, according to local NBC affiliate, KTVH.

Montana candidate dies

He had campaigned only the day before his death, the Billings Gazette reported. The tragic news was shared by his family Saturday.

“Whether he be hunting, fishing, skiing or working on a farm or ranch, we will always treasure the enduring optimism, hope and love Mark brought to all of our lives and the people around him,” the family said in a statement.

Sweeney was one of three Democrats running to represent Montana in the newly created Eastern district, formed after the 2020 census. He had served in the state legislature since 2019, most recently as a state senator.

A friend said that Sweeney felt called to unseat Republican Matt Rosendale, a conservative hardliner, and supporter of former President Donald Trump who was elected in 2020 to represent Montana’s only “at-large” House district.

“He saw duty was essentially calling him when he saw that somebody needs to get out and really oppose the current congressperson, whose positions seemed to be so outrageous,” said Evan Barrett, a friend and longtime Democratic policy advisor.

Avid outdoorsman, public servant

Born in Butte, Sweeney grew up in Miles City and spent much of his career as a state expert on fisheries, according to KTVH. A friend said that the avid outdoorsman knew the Yellowstone River like the back of his hand.

“He was like a Huckleberry Finn,” friend Chris Marchion said. “He knew all the islands. He really knew that river. He would float all the time in that little kayak.”

The tragic news of Sweeney’s passing elicited a response from both sides of the political aisle. Republican Governor Greg Gianforte called him a “dedicated husband, father, and public servant” who “always put Montana first.”

The Senate Democratic caucus called Sweeney a “tireless advocate not only for his constituents, but for working people across our state.”

Sweeney is survived by his wife Sue, children Shannon and Jordan, stepdaughters Carly and Brandi Johnson, and two grandkids.

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