HELENA – Democrat Dirk Adams, a Wilsall rancher and attorney, this week became the first person to file as a candidate for Montana’s U.S. Senate seat.

Adams, 62, is challenging U.S. Sen. John Walsh in the Democratic primary in June, for a spot on the general election ballot for the seat formerly held by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.

Adams said Friday his broader range of experience, including years in the cattle business in Montana, make him a better general election candidate against Republican Steve Daines, because he can appeal to the “Independents and the folks we’re going to need to add to the Democratic vote to win.”

Adams paid his $1,740 filing fee Wednesday afternoon to the secretary of state’s office, earning him a place on the June 3 primary ballot.

Walsh, who’s been a U.S. senator for less than two weeks, will be filing to run for re-election. The filing deadline is March 10.

Gov. Steve Bullock appointed Walsh to be U.S. senator on Feb. 7, to succeed Baucus, who resigned earlier that week when he was confirmed as U.S. ambassador to China. Walsh, formerly Montana’s lieutenant governor, already had been running for the Baucus seat.

Another former lieutenant governor, John Bohlinger, also has been running for the seat as a Democrat, but has said he’s reconsidering whether to continue with his campaign.

Daines, Montana’s U.S. representative, is running for the seat and expected to win the Republican nomination. His only challenger is state Rep. Champ Edmunds of Missoula.

Adams has been an announced candidate since last summer, saying then he was getting into the race for Baucus’ seat because no other Democrat had stepped forward and he felt he had the skills and knowledge to win.

At the time, Baucus had announced he was not running for re-election. Walsh and Bohlinger had been mentioned as possible candidates, but didn’t announce their intentions until October.

Adams grew up in Texas, but said he vacationed often in Montana, taught briefly at the University of Montana, and researched where he wanted to start a ranch, choosing the Shields Valley north of Livingston.

He said he started his ranch in 1984 with three cows and 160 acres and gradually expanded the operation while also working as an attorney and banking executive, mostly in California.

His ranch now spans 12,000 acres and raises black angus cattle, pigs, sheep, turkeys and chickens. He and his wife, Miki, also own the general store in Wilsall and operate a chicken-processing plant.

Adams said he’s been meeting with groups across the state about his candidacy, plans to do radio and TV advertising and hopes to have several debates with Walsh, “if he’ll show up.” Walsh, Adams and Bohlinger have appeared at some Democratic county central committee functions in recent months.

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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