Montana Politics

Nov 9, 2013 11:13 AM by Sanjay Talwani

Schweitzer mum on choice in Democratic primary

HELENA - Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) isn't saying who he's supporting in the Democratic primary for the Montana Senate seat on the ballot in 2014.

John Bohlinger, who announced his entry into the race Tuesday, was Schweitzer's lieutenant governor for eight years. And Schweitzer appointed current Lt. Gov. John Walsh as adjutant general of the Montana National Guard.

"They're both good men they're both good friends," he said by telephone Friday.

He said he would probably donate to both their campaigns.

He predicted that Bohlinger would win the primary if it were held today, but that Walsh holds a likely fundraising advantage.

"But the election is a long time away," he said.

Bohlinger has won several elections over a couple of decades as a Republican - five for the state Legislature representing a Billings district and two as the running mate of Schweitzer, a Democrat.

Walsh is by comparison new to political campaigns, having been elected lieutenant governor just last year as Steve Bullock's running mate.

"He has very high name recognition and very high approval ratings," Schweitzer said of Bohlinger. People have had a chance to size him up and they like him, he said.

Walsh, meanwhile, has a great story to tell, Schweitzer said, and is likely to have the funds to tell it.

Schweitzer noted that Walsh has the support of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which can assist in raising funds.

Bohlinger, he said, is continuing the pledge he and Schweitzer made to stay away from money from political action committees.

Bohlinger will raise money mostly through individual contributions in low sums, putting him at a financial disadvantage, Schweitzer said.

Schweitzer himself was widely expected to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Max Baucus, but announced his decision not to run in July.

That left Democrats scrambling to find a well-known candidate until Walsh's entry into the race in early October.

Willsall rancher and former banker Dirk Adams, who has relatively little political experience, is also running in the primary.

On the Republican side, U.S. Rep. Steve Daines officially entered the race Wednesday. State Sen. Champ Edmunds of Missoula is also running.

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