Polson Republican Won’t Back Lange

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – A Republican state senator from Polson says he will vote for Democratic Sen. Max Baucus next year if Republicans nominate state Rep. Michael Lange, R-Billings, to oppose Baucus in the U.S. Senate race.

GOP state Sen. John Brueggeman said that some other Republican legislators share his view, and he felt it was time to go public because their party is “kind of on the rocks right now.” The possibility of Lange as the party’s Senate nominee doesn’t help, he told the Lee Newspapers state bureau in Helena, because Lange can’t win and couldn’t achieve the advantages Baucus brings to the state as a senior senator.

“I don’t think he’s got the steady hand, the stability, to be a statewide candidate,” Brueggeman said of Lange in an unsolicited e-mail to the Lee state bureau. “I don’t think he’s got the faculties to serve in a statewide capacity.”

Brueggeman said, however, that if a “headlining” Republican were to run for the U.S. Senate, he would happily support that candidate.

Brueggeman, 28, a residential contractor from Polson, served in the House in 2001-04 and has been in the Senate since 2005. He worked on former Republican U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns’ unsuccessful 2006 re-election campaign but wasn’t on the staff in the final months.

Efforts to reach Lange for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Lange made news in the Legislature this session when he unleashed a profanity-laced tirade against Gov. Brian Schweitzer at an open Republican caucus in late April. A Helena television newsman took a video of the speech, which ran on television nationally and has been posted on YouTube.com, an Internet site. At the conclusion of the five-day special session in May, House Republicans voted to oust Lange as their majority leader.

The new chairman of the Montana Republican Party, Erik Iverson of Missoula, didn’t take sides in the dispute, but said the party welcomes differing views.

“Senator Brueggeman is a good senator and a sharp guy, and he’s entitled to his own opinion,” said Iverson, who took office last month. “The Montana Republican Party is going to strongly support the Republican nominee in the general election, whoever that may be,” Iverson told the Lee bureau. “Differences in the party are certainly welcome. I certainly respect Senator Brueggeman.”

So far, Lange is the only announced Republican to jump in the race against Baucus, who hasn’t formally announced he is seeking a sixth six-year term but has been raising money for several years.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.