WASHINGTON — Friends of Traditional Banking, a super PAC focused on candidates who support the industry, said Wednesday it is endorsing Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., in his re-election race.

Tester is the first Democrat to get an endorsement from the group. He was a key backer of a bipartisan bill, which President Trump signed in May, to ease certain provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act.

"Senator Tester has demonstrated the courage and bi-partisan effort to help community banks by rolling back egregious one-size-fits-all regulations," Ty Abston, the chairman of Friends of Traditional Banking and CEO of Guaranty Bank & Trust in Mount Pleasant, Texas, said in a press release. "We encourage our allies everywhere to donate to Senator Tester's tight reelection race, and help us keep a fair-minded leader like him in the Senate."

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
Sen. Jon Tester of Montana is the first Democrat to get an endorsement from Friends of Traditional Banking. Bloomberg News

The endorsement from the political action committee comes after the American Bankers Association and the Montana Bankers Association launched television advertisements supporting Tester’s re-election campaign in April.

The super PAC said it chooses two congressional races each cycle in which it backs a candidate, and encourages members to donate directly to those campaigns.

"Instead of spreading a little bit of money to a lot of campaigns, we focus a lot of money on a couple of key campaigns,” Abston said. “Sen. Tester's race in 2018 is key for us."

Friends of Traditional Banking backed Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., in 2012; Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Cory Gardner, Colo., in 2014; and Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, in 2016.

The group said it plans to make one more congressional endorsement later this year.

The Montana Bankers Association applauded the endorsement.

"Tester is being recognized for his leadership qualities that are rare in today's politics — someone who can successfully reach across the aisle to get things done that actually helps the people and businesses of America," said Steve Turkiewicz, the association's president.

Tester, who serves on the Senate Banking Committee, is considered vulnerable, as a Democratic incumbent running in a state the Trump won in the 2016 presidential election. Other Democrats on the Banking Committee, who supported the Senate reg relief bill, also face tough re-election fights in states Trump won, including Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.

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