Now that Schweitzer will be on the homestead and not the hustings, what will the field of candidates look like in 2014, for either Senate or House, assuming Steve Daines runs for Senate? Anyone looking for a ticket to DC needs to get in the the game soon, to start raising money and organizing.
There are many names being floated on the Dem side. Many have statewide name recognition. Denise Juneau is in the second term of her stint as the popular state schools chief in Montana. If Juneau were the nominee, she’d be the first native American nominee for federal office since Bill Yellowtail in the 1990s (unless you count Schweitzer, who was adopted by at least one tribe, but I don’t think that counts).
John Bohlinger, Schweitzer’s Lt. Governor, is quoted today in the Billings Gazette as saying that he, too, might be interested in filling the vacancy left by his old boss. Though he is sprightly for 77, Bohlinger could nevertheless campaign with great authority on issues such as Medicare and Social Security. He could also, in theory, run as either an Independent, Dem or Republican, which makes for great blogging.
There is Franke Wilmer, a state legislator from Bozeman who ran for Congress in 2012. She is a professor of political science at MSU, and very active in politics and knowledgeable on public policy. John Lewis, Max Baucus’s senior aide, has also been mentioned. Would his boss hand over to Lewis a piece of his giant campaign-cash nest-egg to help his right hand man? Stephanie Schriock, who is the president of Emily’s list and a Butte native, has been mentioned. Schriock could raise significant money, making her a very strong horse, perhaps as good as any we have–even despite the fact that she’s been gone from Montana while, and lives in the one place that you don’t want to live when you are considering running for office in Montana–Washington, DC. Stephanie knows campaigning and fundraising, the two things usually missing when candidates make weak showings. Kim Gillan, a former state Senator from Billings, has valuable experience running against Daines in 2012.
There’s been talk of John Walsh, the current Lt. Governor and former national guard commander. Walsh would make an interesting candidate. Democrats with military backgrounds always present problem for Republicans, who like to warmonger but don’t like to serve, or who like to complain about deficits but also like to create wars while cutting taxes. It’s hard to imagine why Walsh, who as LG makes a good salary and gets to work with Steve Bullock would want to do the DC thing. Walsh told Chuck Johnson that he hadn’t really thought about it at all, but did not deny interest.
Lee Newspapers is reporting that Amanda Curtis, a tough, smart young legislator from Butte, America, is taking a look at the house seat. Her name has also come up for the senate. Curtis took transparency and making the legislature work for people to a new level –she made daily youtube videos during her first legislative session this winter, and they were phenomenal. She is a natural–a Wendy Davis type in MT– and we will hear more from her.
Kendall Van Dyk, unfortunately, has said he will not run for statewide office in 2014. Given his record of winning tough races (he ousted Roy Brown from his senate seat in Billings), that’s a loss for us. Monica Lindeen, the state auditor, likewise said this week that she does not want to go to DC.
On the GOP side, we have Ryan Zinke and Jon Sonju and Corey Stapleton. Zinke’s career looked bright for a while, but it took a slight hit after he chose to run on the ticket with Neil Livingstone, whose gubernatorial campaign did not go so well (he was revealed to have authored a manual for business travelers about how to pick up hookers). But Zinke has a powerhouse resume because he is not only a navy seal but was actually a member of Seal Team Six, in the decade before that outfit went in to get Bin Laden. And he is rumored to have “shot many Arabs” during the Gulf War, a fact that will no doubt appeal to conservative voters in Montana.
Jon Sonju was Rick Hill’s running mate, so in theory, he has the same credential to run for Congress as Steve Daines did. Daines had been Roy Brown’s running mate in 2008. Actually, Sonju got significantly more votes in 2012 than Daines did in ‘08. The Sonju name is big in the Flathead Valley, where Sonju Industries, the family business, has long had a major presence.
Stapleton, who stepped up and took hard shots at Rick Hill during the gubernatorial primary but then came up short on election day, is a former naval officer and raised a decent amount of money in his race for Governor but lacked Hill’s name recognition. This would be his third run for statewide office. He ran for auditor once, too.
Speaking of Rick Hill, he too might run, I’m hearing his name from a few sources. He would have to overcome the bad taste that he left in voters’ mouths when he took an illegal campaign contribution of $500,000, only to be ordered by the court to give it back. That case is still being litigated, not a good thing for an aspiring US Senate candidate. Court is not a good place to campaign from. The only place worse is rehab.
Then, a trio rounding out the field of possibles, we have GOP legislators Scott Reichner of Big Fork, and Champ Edmunds of Missoula, and……drumroll please…..Krayton Kerns, the chairman of the state House Judiciary Committee and the biggest wingnut this side of the Mississippi. Kerns has written that our society will soon collapse, because of the Obama presidency, and that we will all soon be without power, food or fuel and will have to take to the woods to survive.