Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 21, 2014

Montana Lt. Gov. John Walsh Appointed to Replace Baucus

Montana Lt. Gov. John Walsh Appointed to Replace Baucus

Walsh, far right, visited the Capitol in November along with West Virginia Senate candidate Natalie Tennant. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Win or lose in November, Democratic Lt. Gov. John Walsh will be the next senator from Montana.

Gov. Steve Bullock appointed his former running mate to fill the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, who is leaving the Senate early after being confirmed Thursday as ambassador to China.

Walsh was already running for the seat, but he’ll now run as the incumbent senator. That change could provide some inherent advantages in his quest to hold one of the party’s most vulnerable seats.

“I wanted to appoint someone who I truly believed would wake up each and every day wanting to put Montana and Montanans first,” Bullock said in a Friday news conference to announce the appointment.

National Democrats recruited Walsh to run after former Gov. Brian Schweitzer took a pass on the race. The open seat is a top target of national Republicans, who landed a top-tier candidate in Rep. Steve Daines. Two other Democrats, former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger and rancher Dirk Adams, are also seeking the nomination.

Walsh said he would fly to Washington, D.C., on Monday and be sworn in on Tuesday.

Running as a sitting senator could offer Walsh considerable fundraising assistance, as he’ll be close to Capitol Hill donors and he’ll now introduce himself as a senator. The designation also could get more voters to pay attention to the race, while also providing him free media.

Still, those new advantages don’t necessarily portend victory in November. Daines, a freshman congressman, raised more than $1 million in the fourth quarter and ended 2013 with $1.9 million in cash on hand. He also launched his first TV ad this week.

Democrats hope to replicate the success of Sen. Jon Tester, who won in 2012 despite a double-digit loss in Montana by President Barack Obama. Walsh even has the same haircut.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Michael Bennet applauded the decision.

“John is the kind of guy who may not agree with the party on every single issue, but he has the selflessness and courage to always do what he thinks is right for Montana, and that is exactly the kind of leadership we need here in the US Senate,” Bennet said in a statement released moments after the announcement.

The race is rated Tossup/Tilts-Republican by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

  • southerndemnut

    I would say these developments put the race more in a Pure Tossup category with further review to follow as the campaign progresses. The free press that Walsh will receive as an incumbent Senator, doing his job, is worth its weight in gold. And probably worth a couple points in the election.

    • Ryan

      I’d tend to disagree. The incumbency advantage is a tad overrated, considering Walsh was in full campaign mode already. He won’t have the opportunity to develop a record to run on. Tilt R is reasonable at this stage.

      • Charles Wolf

        Schweitzer has been sniffing arond Iowa recently, at least positioning for a Hillary fumble or withdrawal.
        If he hopes to be remotely viable in 2016, he must not only campaign for Walsh, he has to get him over the finish line in first place in 2014.
        Tester will also be on board for Walsh.
        This could get serious.

  • Leader of the Resistance

    Walsh should enjoy his time as “Senator.” It won’t last past January.

  • James Childress

    I feel it was highly inappropriate and awfully presumptive for the governor to appoint someone who is already running for that office. I believe this creates an unfair advantage by giving free publicity that the office will afford him. On the flip side, this could also harm his chances of winning as he will have a record of who he is and how he will vote, but I suspect he will only make safe votes and not show his true colors unless he wins the seat officially. Take his voting record with a grain of salt at election time.

  • Bob Stauskas

    Since innovations resulting from freedom of action tend to be just as useful as those arising from intellectual freedom, it seems clear that liberty’s value does not depend upon the intellectual merit of what it makes possible.

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