Baucus departure throws new wrinkle into Montana U.S. Senate race

2013-12-19T06:15:00Z 2014-10-03T14:27:36Z Baucus departure throws new wrinkle into Montana U.S. Senate race

HELENA — The news that Sen. Max Baucus may resign his seat to become U.S. ambassador to China could throw a new wrinkle into the 2014 race for his Senate seat, as Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock would appoint Baucus’s successor.

Would Bullock appoint his own lieutenant governor, John Walsh, who’s already a top Democratic candidate for the seat that Baucus planned to vacate anyway, through retirement?

Neither Walsh nor Bullock would comment Wednesday evening.

Appointing Walsh would make him an incumbent U.S. senator, immediately upping his profile in a race that already includes Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Daines and four other candidates.

Yet Montana State University political scientist David Parker said Wednesday he’s not sure that making Walsh the incumbent would give him that much of an advantage.

Senators appointed to seats tend to do poorly when they run for re-election, Parker said, because they often spend only a short time on the job before running and voters may view the appointment as an advantage unfairly gained.

“In some places, the electorate sees that as not kosher,” he said.

Under Montana law, if a U.S. Senate seat becomes vacant, an election to fill the seat must be held at the next general election. However, the law also allows the governor to make a “temporary appointment” to fill the seat until that election.

It also wasn’t clear Wednesday evening when Baucus might resign, if he is nominated to be ambassador to China. President Barack Obama would have to make the nomination, after which Baucus would face a confirmation process before the U.S. Senate.

Bowen Greenwood, executive director of the Montana Republican Party, said Wednesday night that Montanans would want an “open, transparent and fair process” of appointing a successor to Baucus.

He suggested Bullock should appoint someone who would fill the rest of Baucus’ term and not run for re-election.

Two other Democrats are in the race for Baucus’s seat: Wilsall rancher Dirk Adams and former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger.

Bohlinger’s top campaign adviser, Bob Brigham, suggested Wednesday that Bullock appoint former U.S. Rep. Pat Williams to fill Baucus’ seat through 2014 – with the understanding that Williams wouldn’t run for election, leaving the existing candidates to continue with their campaigns.

“Pat Williams can go back there and, on day one, be as effective as anyone in the chamber,” Brigham said. “Then when it comes to the future direction of the Democratic Party, let the voters decide.”

Williams, 76, who lives in Missoula, said Wednesday he’d consider it – if Bullock asked.

Williams said Bullock should appoint someone who knows their way around Washington, D.C., and who would not run for re-election.

“I have both of those qualifications and I can’t think of another Montanan who does,” he said.

Adams, reached at his ranch Wednesday, said Bullock should appoint a high-ranking Democratic woman to fill Baucus’s seat, such as state Auditor Monica Lindeen, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau of Secretary of State Linda McCulloch.

Appointing a woman would “send an important message about women in Democratic politics,” he said.

“Any of these women are well-qualified and should be given a chance,” Adams said. “It would elevate their profile and build the Democratic bench.”

Daines said late Wednesday that Baucus should be congratulated on his apparent nomination to serve as ambassador to China.

“Senator Baucus has been a dedicated public servant for the people of Montana and he will be the same when representing our country in China,” Daines said in a statement.

The other two Republicans in the race are state Rep. Champ Edmunds of Missoula and Kalispell air traffic manager David Leaser.

Parker also said a Baucus resignation and the naming of a new, incumbent senator by Bullock doesn’t change the basic political dynamics of the race, which currently favor Republicans and Daines.

Montana still leans Republican, the party not in power in the White House usually does well in non-presidential election years, and Daines has run a successful statewide race and has decent name recognition, Parker said.

Missoulian State Bureau reporter Mike Dennison can be reached at 1-800-525-4920 or by email at

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(18) Comments

  1. Leadfoot
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    Leadfoot - December 19, 2013 7:54 pm
    Agree with most of the above except with Jack88. He's on something illegal. None of what he says about America's healthcare is true. We are not 37th. "Survey" done with HC insurance/coverage as a major deciding point that has 3rd world medicine itself. That is the only way that the Socialized countries of the world could be in the same millennium as the US. 80% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the US/Canadian border. 70% of Canadians seek serious surgery in US. All the World Leaders come to US for any serious surgery (transplants, cardiac caths, etc). The filthy rich Muslim/oil countries, to save face, come to America to have their countrymen educated here in Medicine, build hospitals to US standards in their own land and basically move a US medical center to their own country. In the US (until Obama came along to screw medicine up), one doesn't wait for 6 months for his Prostate surgery, her hysterectomy, or their back surgery. You do in Canada, GB, Germany, Denmark, France, etc. Stop talking over your unskilled head. The US medical system IS, & always has been, the best in the world. Period, end of Discussion to quote your Messiah, Obama. Again, I would pay for your office visit if you would have the courage to express your opinions on American medical care with your own physician.
  2. GaryTinkSanders
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    GaryTinkSanders - December 19, 2013 5:33 pm
    Most of the corporate ranches and farms are owned or friended by politicians.
  3. David1
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    David1 - December 19, 2013 4:51 pm
    This guy turned his coat so many times, it's worn out.
  4. Miss Perfect
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    Miss Perfect - December 19, 2013 3:40 pm
    Not before he takes your TAX dollars and gives them to rich land owners vis the FARM BILL. Just corporate welfare that the dems and repubs like.
  5. Miss Perfect
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    Miss Perfect - December 19, 2013 3:39 pm
    news that Sen. Max Baucus may resign his seat to become U.S. ambassador to China...........if only we had the will to do the right thing.......impeach him.

    Is there any doubt democrats have given up on retaining this seat? doubt at all.
  6. DoItRight
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    DoItRight - December 19, 2013 1:51 pm
    Yer rite-
    Ol' Max sure did act like a Repubican that last couple terms. They'll probably be sad to lose him.
  7. Kuato
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    Kuato - December 19, 2013 11:09 am
    My father always used to tell me "if you can't say something good about something good about someone, don't say anything at all" So I am keeping my mouth shut, but know this Montana. I am counting the days down till Max Baucus is gone and out of our government and lives for good. He has never represent me or the American middle class. Instead ,I turly believe he works for the banksters and corporatist in their cold war on American and our freedoms, and the nations states of the world through globalization by and for the elites. You see,they think we are all so stupid that all the sheep out here can't figure this out, and a few photo opps is good enough to fool us all. So even though I harbor no ill will to him ,I am still counting the days down till we can all say good riddance to the Washington insider known as "Goldman Sachs Max"
  8. Alan H Johnson
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    Alan H Johnson - December 19, 2013 9:53 am
    Montana history shows that the electorate has not been kind to appointed Senators. Both John Erickson (1933) and Paul Hatfield (1978) were defeated in the next Democratic Primary. I favor a non-candidate caretaker with the experience to handle the job. Pat Williams is the first to come to mind.
  9. jacksommersby88
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    jacksommersby88 - December 19, 2013 8:34 am
    Oh, please. War-criminal W.'s unpaid-for $1.2 trillion Medicare D. had just as flawed an implementation, and after the kinks were worked out the majority of Americans were pleased with it. The same will happen with ObamaCare, which more and more Americans are benefiting from. And keep in mind that it's the greedy insurance companies, not the White House, who've been cancelling their policies because they refuse to improve their paltry policies so they meet ACA standards. And where was the Republican outrage pre-ObamaCare when insurance companies were cancelling thousands of policies each and every day?
  10. Second Amendment
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    Second Amendment - December 19, 2013 8:23 am
    Hopefully when Max gets to China they can finds some herbs or something for his chronic constipation.
  11. jacksommersby88
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    jacksommersby88 - December 19, 2013 8:21 am
    Heh! "Best health care in the world"? In your dreams. Our pathetic health-care system is actually ranked 37th in the world; and our health-care efficiency is ranked 46th in the world out of 48 countries. As for "communist," over the last 4 years 95% of the new wealth has gone to the top 1%. Yep, sounds like communism to me! (rolls eyes) And good to see someone spewing the same nonsensical "Obama's out to get our guns!" poppycock. Must you spew everything Faux News and drug-offender Limbaugh tell you? Oh, and could you please explain how Republicans are "conservatives" when your last 3 presidents both grew government and left office with a record deficit?
  12. nemo
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    nemo - December 19, 2013 8:17 am
    Max is still cheesed 'cause he got passed over for Pope. Ambassador-to-somewhere is his last shot at a legacy.
  13. Roger
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    Roger - December 19, 2013 7:13 am
    This rancher, Dirk Adams, says a woman should be appointed to Baucus' seat - that's sexist, and suggests that Adams considers gender discrimination a viable policy. He's clearly not fit for public office, except for perhaps dogcatcher or something like that.
  14. NewMontanaMan
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    NewMontanaMan - December 19, 2013 6:36 am
    Of course Max will be rewarded for being instrumental in helping the Kenyan, Muslim Communist in the White House to destroy the best healthcare in the world. ObamaCare was a massive lie from the beginning led by the congenital liar in the White House and suck-ups like Baucus; a power play to take over 17% of the American economy in the perfect mode of Cloward-Piven. First healthcare, then education with "Common Core" and next our guns - that is all it takes for us to be a Communist county and Max is getting his payoff for helping Obama achieve "the dream of his father!"
  15. walter12
    Report Abuse
    walter12 - December 19, 2013 6:03 am
    After what Tester and Baucus have done with their lapdog behavior for the Demon Obama over the last five and half years and their continued support for this travesty, this nightmare, this monstrosity of ObamaCare, the GOP will definitely take this Senate seat in 2014.
  16. GaryTinkSanders
    Report Abuse
    GaryTinkSanders - December 19, 2013 4:35 am
    This is nothing more than a "Slickster" political move in hopes of maintaining the Democratic rule in our U.S. senate, incumbents are hard to beat, this will clearly give an advantage to Democrats in the upcoming election. Max will get right to work giving our Montana grown beef and grain to the Chinese.
  17. Miss Perfect
    Report Abuse
    Miss Perfect - December 19, 2013 1:37 am
    “Then when it comes to the future direction of the Democratic Party, let the voters decide.”
    HAHA.......jeez....look what all these windbags are singing. Wake up girls.......Mad Max just bailed on you demorats, he's not waiting around as the the ugly stuff starts to roll out of Obama/Maxcare. That's haven't seen anything yet! The website issues, the millions who lost insurance, and the sticker shock are just getting started......and mud face Max knows it. He and his 3rd wife are hitting the far away from here as he can get.

    Think about it......Max could have raised millions from his friends at BIG pharma for the democrat candidate. He could have campaigned for the candidate and used his waning popularity to buy some votes. But no .....he BAILED! Total coward he is.....and a bald faced liar.

    The sudden departure of Medicine Man Max means ONE THING..........the DEMS have GIVEN UP on retaining his senatorial seat.

    After Fat Jon gets his size 54 levi's voted from his seat, Montana can have a meaningful vote on the hill.

  18. LosandfoundT
    Report Abuse
    LosandfoundT - December 18, 2013 8:35 pm
    ""Bowen Greenwood, executive director of the Montana Republican Party, said Wednesday night that Montanans would want an “open, transparent and fair process” of appointing a successor to Baucus.""

    Montanans want “open, transparent and fair process” of all Politicians!

    The Tea-Party muzzled Senate GOP/Republicans Fight to Protect Secret Donors:

    Voter suppression the new GOP strategy:

    Democracy gone Astray:

    Senate Republicans fight to protect Secret Donors:

    Senate Republicans filibustered The Discloser Act...:

    Senate Republicans fight to protect Secret Donors-Videos:

    Moron Secret Donors:
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