HELENA – Montana voters set the stage Tuesday for a November election that will determine whether a U.S. Senate seat that has been in Democratic hands for a century will stay there after the resignation of six-term Sen. Max Baucus.
U.S. Rep. Steve Daines is leaving his House seat to challenge incumbent Sen. John Walsh, who was appointed in February to replace Baucus. Both easily won their primary elections Tuesday.
The GOP sees Daines as the best chance to win back a seat it hasn’t held since 1907.
“This would be historic for Montana, but more importantly, Montana’s voice needs to be heard in the U.S. Senate, not the voice of Harry Reid,” Daines said Tuesday night, referring to the Democratic Senate majority leader. “I hope to bring that voice to the Senate, a voice that pushes back on the overreach of the federal government.”
Daines won the Republican nomination over state Rep. Champ Edmunds and political newcomer Susan Cundiff.
Walsh defeated former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger and Wilsall rancher Dirk Adams, for the Democratic nomination, and his campaign is already in full swing to take on Daines in the Nov. 4 general election.
“We know it’s going to be a difficult race,” Walsh said. “What I want to do is hold Congressman Daines accountable. … I’m going to try to convince Montanans that his actions have been irresponsible with respect to standing up for Montanans.”
Baucus was to retire after 36 years in the U.S. Senate when his term expired in January 2015, but he resigned in February to become ambassador to China. That paved the way for Gov. Steve Bullock to appoint Walsh, who was his lieutenant governor at the time.
Republicans cried foul, saying Baucus’ resignation and Walsh’s appointment were orchestrated to give the Democrats an advantage against Daines and undermined the primary elections. Bullock has repeatedly said the decision to appoint Walsh was his alone, and he believed Walsh to be the best person for the appointment.