Politics in the 406: Previewing the primary races for U.S. Senate

On Tuesday, June 3, Montanans throughout the state will head to the polls to choose their party’s candidates for the race for U.S. Senate.  Although the primaries typically attract party stalwarts, this year’s primary races, particularly the Democratic race, have attracted national attention after criticism that the Democratic Party is only supporting one candidate.

For the Democrats

        With Sen. Max Baucus’s retirement and his subsequent appointment as Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, Democrats were left scrambling to find a viable candidate. Then former Gov. Brian Schweitzer declined, causing the choice to become even more muddled. Finally, when Baucus vacated his seat, current Gov. Steve Bullock appointed then Lt. Gov. John Walsh to fill the vacancy. Accusations have since arisen that the Montana Democratic Party is bowing to pressure from Washington D.C. by nominating and fully supporting only one candidate.

John Walsh: Currently the sitting junior U.S. Senator for Montana, Walsh is fighting to keep both his seat and his party’s nomination. Former adjutant general of the Montana National Guard, Walsh led soldiers in Iraq. However, a 2010 report by the inspector general of the U.S. Army concluded that Walsh had improperly used his position for private gain, and this controversy has caused issues with Walsh’s campaign

John Bohlinger: The former Republican Lieutenant Governor who served under Schweitzer has made the switch to the Democratic Party and is currently fighting for the nomination. Attempting to characterize himself as a bipartisan candidate, he also has argued against the influence of Washington D.C. over the race.

Dirk Adams: A political outsider, Adams has taught business law at the University of Montana, worked as a rancher, and helped run several non-profit organizations, including Wilsall Community Events. If chosen to represent the Democratic Party he has promised to expand Medicaid and fight construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline (a view that has separated him from other candidates).

For the Republicans:

        Unlike the Democrats, the Republicans have almost completely coalesced around one-term congressman Steve Daines. An average from the polling data of Real Clear Politics shows him leading John Walsh by about 14 points. That coupled with the Affordable Care Act’s unpopularity and President Obama’s decreasing approval ratings has given the Republicans a very strong chance at seizing the seat.

Steve Daines: The Bozeman-raised and one-term Congressman is the Tea Party-backed Republican favorite. Running with the slogan “More Jobs, Less Government,” Daines has blasted the Affordable Care Act and the national deficit, quickly becoming the favorite to win the general election as well. As the more experienced of the Republican candidates, the nomination appears to be almost certainly his.

Champ Edmunds: A relative unknown quality in the race for the Senate, Edmunds has called himself “Montana’s conservative choice.” Espousing his conservative beliefs, he states marriage is between one man and one woman and is a firm supporter of the second-amendment. Although the underdog for the nomination, no one should count Edmunds out of this race.