Montana Democratic women consider running for U.S. Senate

2013-05-05T06:15:00Z 2014-08-04T19:08:57Z Montana Democratic women consider running for U.S. SenateThe Associated Press The Associated Press
May 05, 2013 6:15 am  • 

HELENA – Several Democratic women are among those looking at the 2014 U.S. Senate race in Montana, one of about two dozen states where a woman has never been elected to the Senate.

U.S. Sen. Max Baucus announced last month that he would not be seeking re-election – leading to a lot of immediate interest in the 2014 race. It is the first open Montana Senate seat with no incumbent since the 1970s.

So far, former Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer has gathered much of the focus as he considers a run. But if he declines, Democrats could see a flood of female candidates.

State Auditor Monica Lindeen and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau could both be interested. And Stephanie Schriock, who leads a group that supports female candidates, is also considering it.

“Brian Schweitzer could probably win that seat, and I am going to support him if he makes the decision to run. If for some reason Brian decided he is not going to run, I would probably take a look at it,” said Lindeen. “Until then I am just going to continue to do my job.”

Lindeen said the auditor’s position, which protects consumers and regulates insurance and securities companies, makes a difference for Montanans. The former lawmaker, who once ran unsuccessfully for Congress against former U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, would want to make sure she could make a difference in the Senate.

Juneau is taking a similar approach by saying “of course it all depends on Mr. Schweitzer.” She said there is still plenty of time to sort out the candidates.

“I think it is exciting. I like the idea that people are talking about women running for that seat,” said Juneau, a featured speaker at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. “That is the fact of an open seat – at least people can talk about the possibilities.”

Schriock, who heads the Emily’s List political group, was U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s 2006 campaign manager. The political strategist said earlier this week she may consider the race.

Current state Rep. Franke Wilmer, who came up short last year in a Democratic primary for the U.S. House seat, has been mentioned as another possibility. She isn’t ruling it out.

Montana was the first state to send a woman to Congress when Jeanette Rankin was elected in 1916 and again in 1940. But it has been 70 years since the state sent a woman to Congress – and never to the Senate, Wilmer noted.

“It makes us look very backward, and it is a bit backward,” Wilmer wrote in an email.

The Montana State University political science professor said Schweitzer is obviously a “clear the decks” candidate who immediately becomes the presumptive Democratic nominee.

But she says that Juneau, who is very popular among an influential group of progressives in the Democratic Party, also has enough backing to make the rest of the field also think twice about getting in a race that will no doubt be a lot of work.

“If Schweitzer or Juneau decline to run, then the first thing any other candidate has to determine is whether they can quickly raise a quarter- to half-million dollars to show they are serious and can unite and consolidate support for their candidacy,” Wilmer said.

MSU political scientist David Parker said any Democrat other than Schweitzer would face a difficult matchup against potential Republicans with much more name identification, like current Congressman Steve Daines, Rehberg or former Gov. Marc Racicot. But he doesn’t think gender would be much of a factor, pointing out it didn’t hinder U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp last year in her successful North Dakota race.

“I honestly don’t believe that it would be a negative factor at all. And it may be a positive factor,” Parker said.

Another Democrat whose name has been mentioned, Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike McGrath, told the Associated Press he isn’t running.

That keeps the bulk of the Democratic attention on Schweitzer as the others wait. Schweitzer, in the midst of his effort this past week to takeover Stillwater Mining Co., didn’t tip his hand during a brief interview.

Daines, favored by many Republicans for his fresh approach to his new job, also isn’t tipping his hand. He only said at a stop this week in Helena that he is giving the race “thoughtful consideration.” But he said there was no rush.

“Montanans are still getting over the last senate election,” Daines said. “What I have heard is they would like to see their leaders solving the problems in this country rather than be focused on the next election.”

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(6) Comments

  1. montanamuralist
    Report Abuse
    montanamuralist - May 05, 2013 1:31 pm
    Republican Potter Party needs to field a viable candidate before they start crowing about a win. If Brian runs it is over as there is not viable Republican as of now. No, Daines is not viable...barely has been in the House and would vote against background checks...and a corporate and NRA but boy. As far as Montana not being Missoula idiots...tell that to Tester. Most of us have common sense and are not Fox News stooges that buy in to conspiracy theories and complete Obama hate and racism which is what is driving most detractors. Hate Obamacare? Come up with something better other than higher medical costs and the status quo for the big boys Potter Partyt. Can't do it? Won't do it? Lose....only way common sense folks win is if Brian runs though. The ladies are nice but no chance compared to Schweitzer.
  2. Run - A- Mook
    Report Abuse
    Run - A- Mook - May 05, 2013 10:26 am
    Re-Made in Montana
    O.K. it isn't so.
    The correct way to say it is
    The People Republic of Missoula.

    Oh, the same thing, YOUR RIGHT.
  3. Re-Made in Montana
    Report Abuse
    Re-Made in Montana - May 05, 2013 8:34 am
    What? "Little California" is not the center of Montana's political universe. Say it isn't so.
  4. walter12
    Report Abuse
    walter12 - May 05, 2013 7:25 am
    By all means, run. But do not expect to be loved in Montana. Much of the state has had enough of Obama stooges and toadies by now.
  5. Roger
    Report Abuse
    Roger - May 04, 2013 10:34 am
    I wonder what these female potential candidate's position is on guns - most likely antis. And what is this Franke Wilmer complaining about Montana having had no females in the Senate and none in the House for 70 years, and that supposedly makes the state look bad? Perhaps there were no viable female candidates - that someone is a female doesn't (or shouldn't) guarantee results - although in some cases it does - but certainly not for elective positions.
  6. mtmike
    Report Abuse
    mtmike - May 03, 2013 11:10 pm
    If the D's run a "progressive" the R's will be drooling as they will win the seat. Montana isn't Missoula...just the way it is. If the guvnah runs it's all over.
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