Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series on the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate.

BOULDER – At a local Democratic dinner here, U.S. Senate candidate Dirk Adams doesn’t hold back when he tells the party faithful why they should vote for him – and not the newly minted Democratic incumbent, Sen. John Walsh.

Walsh takes money from many of the same corporate figures financing Republican candidate Steve Daines – and isn’t really saying much about the issues that matter, Adams says.

“If you go to (Walsh’s) website, I defy you to tell where he stands on anything,” Adams says. “Let me just mention that the word ‘environment’ doesn’t appear on his website, the words ‘climate change’ don’t appear on his website.

“So, what kind of a Democrat are we talking about here?”

It’s provocative talk in a crowd of Democrats, but Adams, a rancher, attorney and former bank executive who raises cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens and turkeys on a 10,000-acre spread northeast of Wilsall, is trying to make some waves in his first run for elected office in Montana.

He’s dropped nearly $300,000 of his own money into his campaign, has pitched himself both as an environmental standard-bearer and a pragmatic businessman and sometimes has criticized his own party for “not willing to campaign on its own ideas.”

Yet Adams acknowledges he faces a big hurdle as a political newcomer in a statewide race, and says it’s been tough convincing people he’s a serious candidate – even though he was the first Democrat to officially get into the race, in the wake of last spring’s announcement by Sen. Max Baucus that he would retire this year.

Adams, former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger and Walsh are vying for the Democratic nomination to run for Baucus’ former seat in the fall. Walsh was appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock on Feb. 7 to succeed Baucus, who resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China.


Adams, 62, announced his candidacy last summer and has been attending local Democratic Party functions since last fall, trying to convince skeptical Democrats that he should be the nominee and can beat Daines, the likely Republican nominee.

“This is not my first rodeo, in that I’ve managed government relations for companies run by big Democrats,” he says.

Adams grew up in southeast Texas, got a teaching degree from the University of Texas and later went to law school at Harvard University, graduating in 1976. He worked as an attorney in New York before becoming a bank regulator in California, where he was general counsel for the federal Home Loan Bank in San Francisco.

Adams left the Home Loan Bank in 1987 to join Golden West Financial, a thriving savings and loan run by Herbert and Marion Sandler, who were prominent Democratic donors. He spent 13 years with Golden West, working primarily on acquisitions, as the company bought up several billion dollars’ worth of assets.

Adams later bought a mortgage bank of his own, with an investment group, in 2004: Home Savings Bank of America in Little Falls, Minn. The bank eventually failed in 2012, unable to recover from the collapse of the mortgage market in 2008-09 and regulatory steps that stalled an infusion of capital, he says.

While Adams worked in the banking industry, he also worked his ranch near Wilsall, starting with 160 acres in 1984 and slowly expanding it. His family had traveled in Montana when he was young, and Adams says he planned since he was 18 to become a rancher in Montana.

“I built up the farm,” he says. “I’ve done the work. I’m not an absentee owner.”

Records indicate Adams has had a Montana driver’s license since 1986, and he’s voted in all but two Montana general elections since 2000.

The Lazy SR Ranch, owned by Adams and his wife Miki, sells beef, pork and poultry to area resorts, restaurants and the food services at Montana State University and the University of Montana. His wife also is opening the state’s first plant that will process chicken from other operations, in Wilsall this spring.


Adams says he got into the Senate race last year after former Gov. Brian Schweitzer declined to run, because he thought he was the type of Democrat who could defeat Republican Daines in the fall.

He says his profile and experience as a rancher and a businessman match up well against Daines, whose background is in business, and that he has the skills needed to be a U.S. senator: “I’m somebody who understands how to negotiate, the importance of creativity and the importance of good policy.”

While he touts his business credentials, Adams takes a progressive stance on many issues.

He supports gay marriage and women’s right to an abortion, he opposes the Keystone XL pipeline as a bad deal for Montana and Montana landowners, he supports a regional wilderness bill that would set aside 6 million acres of forest in Montana as wilderness, he believes a single-payer health system is the best option for health care reform.

He also is pushing a huge expansion of fiber-optic cable to create an “education superhighway” that links every Montana school, medical office and other economic hubs.

At the Democratic dinner in Boulder earlier this month, Adams encouraged folks to check out his stands on his website – and took a few more swipes at Walsh, the incumbent.

“You have a choice here,” he said. “You’ve got a couple of guys (Adams and Bohlinger), talking about the issues, not taking money from big companies. And then you’ve got two guys (Daines and Walsh) running around taking money from everybody they can get their hands on. …

“If you send people to Washington that take money from big companies, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, you’re going to get the same result you’ve been getting.”

Coming Tuesday: A profile of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Bohlinger.

Missoulian State Bureau reporter Mike Dennison can be reached at 1-800-525-4920 or by email at mike.dennison@lee.net.

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(13) comments

Run - A- Mook

A copy of an e-mail from the Mt Republican Party.

Uh-Oh: Schweitzer Calls Dem #MTSen Primary a Toss Up, Places Bets on Daines

You know things are bad when even your own party is hedging its bets against you.

That’s what happened this morning, when former Democrat Governor Brian Schweitzer admitted that appointed Senator John Walsh securing the Democrat nomination in June is far from a sure thing.

“If that primary election were held today it would be too close to call,” Schweitzer predicted this morning on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown.

To add insult to injury, Schweitzer then went on to affirm what countless polls and national pundits have been saying all along: “If the election were held today, Steve Daines would probably win it.”


Between double-digit deficits in the polls, lackluster fundraising, and a floundering campaign, it’s hardly shocking that political leaders are backing away from Walsh’s candidacy.

We just didn’t expect it to come so quickly from Montana Democrats


Sounds to my that Adams just made a pretty good case for Walsh. If I were to vote for a D, and based which one on information provided by Adams I'd choose Walsh.
Adams; a Californian who's business endeavor failed, and who's associated himself with 'Big' democrats' in Cali . AKA socialists.
I think I'll stick for Daines now.


Another out of state person who comes from states that are a mess because of the philosophy on issues this man has. These people move here for a better life then want us Montanan's to buy in. Run for US Senate in Ca leave us a lone.

idiot state

Another Montana big liberal big government extreme environmentalist (Tom Steyer, anyone?)
who thinks GOVERNMENT's the answer. And should be the central dispenser of our healthcare, lol...:))!!!
But please. Anybody...who's Carole King? If you can't answer that, just answer, please...is it 1973?


Mr. Adams, I like what you stand for. Thanks for letting us know. Thanks for being against the Keystone Pipeline, it doesn't make sense to give access across America to anyone claiming they are employees of the pipeline. It doesn't make sense to lower the cost of Canada's oil, we've got our own oil to market and we need to quit selling out America. (How is this giving of private land easements different than Harry Reid giving public land to the Chinese?). Thanks for actually working, you obviously don't need to financially, but you're like a real Montanan, you'll die with your boots on (probably with manure caked on them from your own livestock) rather than with your hand out demanding welfare.


This Adams wouldn't be much different from most of the other senators - he'd quickly fall into line and be just like the rest, if elected. We see that he's a global warming alarmist, but what's his position on the right to keep and bear arms?

Greg Strandberg
Greg Strandberg

Probably the same as the constitution. Stop being so afraid, it doesn't make you gun nuts look too intelligent.


Good luck getting elected, Greg - at least you revealed your true stripes - you're against the right to keep and bear arms, guaranteed under he U.S. Constitution. In other words, you're a dolt, and don't belong in the state legislature because of that.


So to sum it up, Adams is a predatory lender in the mortgage banking business, sucked it dry before it went bankrupt, and during that time he bought Montana ranches out one by one with his out of state money. Now he would like to bring his experiences and values to you. Good luck.


You obviously have not fared well financially Yellowdog1. The credit unions going under in the 80's was quite a different thing from what went on in the 2000's with the investment industry betting against their own clients. I'm sure he bought up ranches others wanted to sell. What's wrong with that? Nothing except you haven't done it or figured out how to do it. Take some lessons from this guy, you might learn something useful in life. He has quite a "live well-lived".


Actually Sukey, we do very well. We just do not try to mix up history. What he did was not only do the lending, also helped write the laws.


Perhaps you're right, I'm not in that industry. I still remember John McCain was one of the Keating Five, so perhaps I shouldn't give Adams a pass either.

Greg Strandberg
Greg Strandberg

Well, Adams scares the party, though not Walsh. Walsh is already campaigning for the General, and that’s why you don’t see any of that language on his site. That would lose him votes, not gain him any.

See, democrats are good at falling into line, and not a single democrat is going to vote for Daines if Adams loses in 5 weeks.

I’d like to think Walsh would take some of Adams’ ideas, but he doesn’t need to, and like I said, that would just hurt him. At this point the national Democratic Party has taken over, and what they care about isn’t really what Montana democrats care about. They’re only concerned about holding onto that U.S. Senate. What common Montanans want or care about doesn’t even factor into their considerations.

The same could be said about Daines and his attempt with the national Republicans, but I think anyone watching TV has figured that out already. I want advertising that benefits me, saves me money, or makes me laugh – I don’t want to see political candidates, period. The first that figures that out will win.

Adams is right when he says “you’ve got a couple of guys (Adams and Bohlinger), talking about the issues, not taking money from big companies. And then you’ve got two guys (Daines and Walsh) running around taking money from everybody they can get their hands on.”

So in that regard it comes down to who you think cares about you more. I personally don’t think any of these four guys cares about me, but at least Adams is trying to point out some of the problems we face. Whoever raises the least money will probably have your back the most, but our system is set up to ensure they lose.

And since only about 20% to 30% of people will vote next much I guess it’ll stay that way.

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