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Montana’s race to the Senate

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Bohlinger and Daines considered frontrunners

By Joseph T. O’Connor Explore Big Sky Senior Editor

HELENA – On July 13 of this year, former Montana governor and Senate frontrunner for the Democratic party, Brian Schweitzer, shocked the state when he announced he was repealing his bid for the state Senate seat, which Sen. Max Baucus will vacate in November 2014.

Disarray fell on Montana’s blue contingent as pundits and voters scrambled to find Baucus’ replacement. Then, on Nov. 5 – bowtie firmly in place – Schweitzer’s former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger announced at a dinner in Helena his plans to run for Senate on the Democratic ticket.

“The Republican Party I was once a member of does not exist today,” said Bohlinger, 77, during an interview with Explore Big Sky. “I believe that good public policy [comes] from the middle. The moderates have either become independents or Democrats, and I chose to become a Democrat.”

Bohlinger, a Republican under Schweitzer, clarified his candidacy to the Associated Press on Nov. 6, saying he’s been “blessed with good health” and that the decision for the state’s Senate seat is “up to the people of Montana.”

These voters will have to decide between a handful of current, former, or one-time-hopeful Montana lieutenant governors. Present Lt. Gov. John Walsh is expected to be the frontrunner against Bohlinger in the Democratic primary, while U.S. Rep. Steve Daines (a freshman Congressman and the 2008 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor) leads the pack in the primary run for the Republican ticket.

Daines, who also announced his candidacy on Nov. 6, is running on a platform focused on reform nationally and in Montana.

“Folks in Washington are more interested in playing politics than finding solutions to big problems,” Daines said in a Nov. 6 video declaring his candidacy. “We need to get back to the core principles that made America great – the values we’re raised with as Montanans.”

The former Vice President of RightNow Technologies – now part of Oracle Corporation and the largest commercial employer in Bozeman – Daines, 51, defeated Democratic Montana Senator Kim Gillan in the 2012 general election.

Other candidates who have declared a run for Montana’s Senate seat include Democrat Dirk Adams, a rancher and businessman from Wilsall; Montana Rep. Champ Edmunds, R-Missoula; and Republican David Leaser, an air traffic manager at Glacier Park International Airport.

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