HELENA – Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Bohlinger rapped Montana’s two sitting U.S. senators and “D.C. insiders” on Monday for their early support of fellow Democrat Lt. Gov. John Walsh, saying they should let Montana voters do the choosing.
Bohlinger’s criticism stems in part from a fundraiser that U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester – both Montana Democrats – are hosting Wednesday in Washington, D.C., for Walsh.
The invitation to the fundraiser also lists Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., as a “special guest,” and suggests donations of $500 to $5,000.
“(Schumer’s) probably never even been to Montana,” Bohlinger said. “What the hell does he have to say about Montana and its politics?”
“I am really troubled by the involvement of the Washington insiders in a Montana Democratic senatorial primary race,” he added. “They should have no business of trying to influence an outcome of an election here.”
Bohlinger, 77, who served as Montana’s lieutenant governor from 2005-12, officially joined the race for Montana’s open U.S. Senate seat last week. He is competing for the Democratic nomination with Walsh, 53, the current lieutenant governor, and Dirk Adams, a rancher and attorney from Wilsall.
All three men are attempting to succeed Baucus, who is retiring next year after six terms in the U.S. Senate.
Bohlinger said he found it “inappropriate” for Montana’s two Democratic U.S. senators to get involved in a Democratic primary race for a U.S. Senate seat.
A spokeswoman for Tester said the senator “respects Bohlinger and his years of service to the people of Montana,” but that Tester had committed to helping Walsh and with the fundraiser well before Bohlinger got into the race.
Baucus’ office declined to comment.
Michelle Mayorga, Walsh’s campaign manager, said only that Walsh is “a distinguished military leader, not a politician,” and that he is running because he wants to fix the “broken” status quo in Congress.
When asked why Walsh shouldn’t be raising money for his campaign in Washington, D.C., Bohlinger said the primary contest should be focused on Montanans and Montana donors.
“I’ll be raising money, but it will be far lesser amounts than the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (of Washington, D.C.) will pour into Walsh’s campaign fund,” Bohlinger said. “Mine will be money that comes from Montanans.
“I’m really offended by the DSCC and their interest in this (primary).”
Bohlinger also appeared on MSNBC on Monday night to talk about the race.
The Montana Senate race is expected to be one of the most-watched races in the country, as Republicans try to pick up a Democratic-held seat in their quest to win control of the U.S. Senate.
U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., announced last week that he’s running for the seat, and GOP newcomer David Leaser of Kalispell also is in the race.