Can the Senate's Newest Appointee Win a Full Term?
Republicans are hoping to win one of two U.S. Senate seats in Montana for the first time since the Chicago White Stockings became the Chicago Cubs and won the first of two consecutive World Series championships.
Rep. Steve Daines (R) and Sen. John Walsh (D) won Tuesday’s Senate primary. Neither shied away from the negative campaigning that characterized their primary season.
"Today, Montanans sent a clear message that they are ready to change Washington and fight for more jobs, and less government,” Daines said in a statement Tuesday night. “Montanans can no longer afford a U.S. Senate – or an appointed senator— that follows President Obama and rubber-stamps failed policies like Obamacare, job-killing energy regulations, and trillions of dollars in wasteful Washington spending.”
"Every day I hear from seniors threatened by a Congressman who has tried twice to privatize their Medicare. I hear from parents with full-time jobs who still struggle to feed their children; from veterans who cannot access the healthcare services they were promised; and from women who worry that Washington politicians will take away their right to make their own healthcare decisions," Walsh said in his primary election victory statement Tuesday night.
Walsh wants his first full six-year term in the Senate. The 33-year veteran of the Montana National Guard, who rose to the rank of adjutant general and led 700 members of the Guard to Iraq, was appointed to the Senate seat Max Baucus vacated to become the U.S. ambassador to China.
Walsh was elected to the office of lieutenant governor of Montana after he retired from the National Guard. From there he went to the Senate to complete Baucus’ term.
Daines is a chemical engineer who left Proctor & Gamble to return to Bozeman, Mont., to work with his parents in the family’s construction business. He left his U.S. House seat to run in the Republican Senate primary.
Daines and his fellow GOP members are hoping they will be able to win a Senate seat this November that was last held by a Republican (Joseph Dixon) in 1907.
Even though they were not running against each other in the primaries, you wouldn’t know it by watching the TV ads in which Daines and Walsh went after each other during the spring primary season in Montana.
The fireworks won’t stop exploding until Montanans start shopping for their Thanksgiving turkeys.
Walsh told reporters following his victory in the Democratic Party primary Tuesday night that he won’t change his style of campaigning and expects the Daines camp to “try to swift boat my career,” referring to the ads that sank Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.
One of the most recent TV campaigns featured an attack by Daines on Walsh alleging he had mismanaged tax dollars while serving as the administrator of the Montana Department of Military Affairs.
The ad also accused Walsh of “voting with Obama to put America deeper in debt” because of votes to increase the nation’s debt ceiling twice, once last year and again this year. However, as the Billings Gazette pointed out, the ad failed to note Daines also voted twice to raise the debt ceiling.
Daines has also charged Walsh with being slow to respond to the Veterans Administration scandal that erupted in May.
Walsh is fighting back against the Daines ads attacking his military record by recruiting a group of Montana veterans to come to his defense.
They have organized a new coalition, the “Walsh Warriors,” that the Walsh campaign described June 2 “as a growing coalition of veterans committed to setting the record straight about Walsh’s military career, including a tour in Iraq where he commanded the largest deployment of Montana National Guard forces since World War II.”
“John served our country proudly, and continues to serve Montana in his new role. We won’t let Washington insiders and special interests tarnish his distinguished record,” said Col. Nikki DeWolf, who under Walsh was only the second woman in Montana National Guard history to be promoted to the rank of colonel.
“We know John, we’ve worked with him and saw firsthand the leadership that qualifies him for this office. We’re proud to stand with him against shameful swiftboat attacks.”
Walsh hasn’t keep his powder dry for the general election campaign, nor has he relegated himself to playing defense. He accused Daines May 20 of creating jobs in China while working at Proctor & Gamble by moving U.S. manufacturing jobs overseas.
The next day, Walsh issued a press release charging Daines was “criminalizing choice” by sponsoring a personhood constitutional amendment in the House that would make abortions illegal, even in the case of rape. Walsh has alleged that it would outlaw some common forms of birth control, but the short bill doesn’t specifically mention this.
And one day after that press release, the Walsh campaign pointed out that although Daines had voted in support of the Violence Against Women Act, he had voted against funding for the legislation.
Even though he has the advantage of incumbency, albeit it limited — Walsh was appointed to the Senate in February — Daines has held double-digit leads in recent polling of Montana voters.
Daines also has a much healthier campaign bank account, with more than $1.88 million in cash on hand, according to the Federal Elections Commission as of May 14.
That compares to $315,870 in cash on hand for the Walsh campaign.
Democrats and Republicans will also be fighting to pick up Montana’s only seat in the US House in November, the seat that Daines left to run for the Senate.
John Lewis (D) and Ryan Zinke (R) won their party’s congressional primaries Tuesday and will face each other in the November general election.