GOP Star Recruit Brags About ‘Rural’ Upbringing. He Grew Up 15 Minutes From the City.

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images/Tim Sheehy campaign
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images/Tim Sheehy campaign

As he works to connect with voters in the very rural state he has adopted as his home, Montana Senate hopeful Tim Sheehy is touting what he claims is his own countryside upbringing in Minnesota.

“I grew up in rural Minnesota,” Sheehy told the Working Ranch Radio Podcast in October 2023. “And although we were not farmers, I grew up in an old farmstead and we were surrounded by farmland.”

Since launching his campaign to unseat vulnerable Sen. Jon Tester (D) last year, Sheehy has described his “rural” childhood on multiple occasions—at a fundraiser for Montana rodeo, in multiple podcast and radio hits, as well as in an interview with Western Ag Reporter.

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The truth, however, is that Sheehy’s home turf is quintessential Minnesota suburbia—a place where pavement dominates pasture.

The Republican candidate grew up in a multi-million-dollar lake house in Shoreview, Minnesota, a quiet Twin Cities suburb just north of St. Paul with a population of roughly 27,000. Sheehy’s campaign confirmed to the Montana Free Press in December that he grew up in the town.

According to a 1990 deed, Sheehy’s childhood home on Turtle Lake is 13 miles from the Minnesota State Capitol, 13 miles from the home of the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium, and just over 20 miles from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America.

The property sits just three miles from a Trader Joe’s market—much closer than the nearest Fleet Farm, a fishing, hunting, and farm supply store popular in the state.

And Sheehy was educated 16 miles away at St. Paul Academy, one of the Twin Cities’ elite private high schools, which counts the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald as an alumnus.

When Sheehy, who is 38 years old, was growing up in Shoreview, the town’s population was roughly the same: a census report from 1990, the year his parents bought the property, states it was 24,587. Property records indicate the homes immediately surrounding Sheehy’s were largely built in the 1980s or early 1990s.

The Montana Free Press reported that the house on Turtle Lake was built on an original 1930s homestead and that Sheehy listed the property as his residence as recently as 2016. The same report found that Sheehy’s parents sold the four-bedroom house for $2.2 million in 2017.

Today, Shoreview is seen as a desirable slice of middle to upper-middle class suburbia with quiet spaces and good schools.

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Niche, a popular online source for school rankings and community reviews, called Shoreview “one of the best places to live in Minnesota” and even bestowed the community with the distinction of “#1 Best Suburb to Buy a House in Minneapolis-St. Paul Area.”

According to Niche’s description, “Living in Shoreview offers residents a dense suburban feel and most residents own their homes.”

Residents describe Shoreview as the stereotypical suburb. “Old white people everywhere,” wrote one of 34 five-star reviewers on Niche. “My amazon packages don’t get stolen. Close to everything, yet quiet. Roads are empty by 11 p.m.”

As he prepares to take on Tester, who lives on a farm his family operates in the rural community of Big Sandy, Sheehy is clearly looking to boost his own connection to the lifestyle and values of the state.

Shoreview may sound quaint, but perhaps not in the way Sheehy was going for in his attempts to relate to voters in Montana, where over 44 percent of the population lives in a rural area. Sheehy’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

On paper, Sheehy has plenty of appeal to Montana voters without overplaying his rural cred. He’s a retired Navy SEAL who has been awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. In 2013, he moved to Montana, starting an aerial firefighting company called Bridger Aerospace, which went public last year with a nearly $900 million valuation.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee and its chair, Montana Sen. Steve Daines, have backed Sheehy, as has Montana Gov. Greg. Gianforte and former President Donald Trump.

But as Sheehy gears up for a race that very well may decide the balance of power in the Senate, the first-time candidate’s history has come under the microscope. And Sheehy’s misleading description of his upbringing is not the only instance in which his sterling story hasn’t matched the gritty details.

For instance, Sheehy—who has a primary residence in Bozeman—has taken up ranching, and his 20,000-acre Little Belt Ranch won a conservation award in 2021. On the campaign trail, he has invoked the ranch often to connect with Montana voters and display his knowledge of issues facing the state’s agricultural and conservation sectors.

But The Daily Beast reported last June that Sheehy hadn’t registered his cattle or farm animals as required by the state, skipping out on the customary taxes that Montana agriculture businesses are expected to pay. After the issue was flagged, Sheehy’s campaign said he was working to rectify the problem.

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Sheehy has also campaigned on being a “self-made” entrepreneur, but as The Daily Beast also reported in December, Sheehy conspicuously left out the extensive financial support from his family from his “bootstrapping” account of building Bridger Aerospace that he later divulged in his memoir Mudslingers.

This month, the Washington Post reported that while Sheehy has told voters he was shot in the arm while serving in combat in Afghanistan, he informed a U.S. Park Ranger in 2015 that he accidentally shot himself during a visit to Glacier National Park. Sheehy claimed to the Post that he lied to the ranger to protect himself and fellow SEALs from what could have been a military investigation into a friendly fire incident from 2012. Sheehy's own memoir, however, gives conflicting accounts of how many times he was shot while serving.

Sheehy has been dinged previously for his misrepresentation of rural settings. Last year, Business Insider reported that Sheehy had used a professional photo of him taken outside a sunny, green pasture in Kentucky on his campaign website next to a description of his “direct participation” in Montana agriculture. The photo was quickly replaced after Insider reached out to Sheehy’s campaign for comment.

In touting his bucolic upbringing, Sheehy told a local Montana radio station, “I grew up in rural Minnesota, you know, land of 10,000 lakes.”

To be sure, Shoreview does feature 16 parks with 1,400 acres of park and open space as well as over 60 miles of trails and sidewalks—as well as several lakes, including the one Sheehy grew up near. The City of Shoreview boasts those outdoor attractions on its official website.

But Sheehy’s hometown is also the land of a 90,000 square foot community center—complete with a tropical-themed indoor waterpark.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to accurately describe the Washington Post report on Sheehy's gunshot wound.

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