Billings Republican Closer to Challenging Baucus

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – A Billings Republican says he is getting closer to announcing plans to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by U.S. Sen. Max Baucus.

Kirk Bushman, who works at an engineering firm and has not previously run for office, set up a campaign committee earlier this month and filed an initial fundraising report that shows he has raised about $11,000, much of it from family. He also has a Web site announcing “Kirk Bushman for U.S. Senate.”

But Bushman said he is not yet positive he will run. He wants to talk to more Republicans and go to Washington D.C. to see what it would take to raise the money needed to take on Baucus, who has already put together more than $7 million.

Bushman would join former House Majority Leader Michael Lange, who so far has raised little money, in the race for the Republican nomination.

“We’re still looking pretty hard at it,” Bushman said. “There’s still a few things we want to get done before we come out and announce.”

He said he hopes to decide before Christmas.

Bushman, 41, mentioned two issues that have helped prompt him to consider a run.

He said Baucus has been wrong to oppose private accounts for Social Security when President Bush sought to revamp the system. Bushman said some combination of traditional Social Security and personal accounts is needed to ensure the system’s long-term viability.

Baucus spurned Bush two years ago when he came to Montana as part of his failed privatization effort. Bushman said Baucus, who has proudly opposed privatization, should have embraced Bush.

“Instead the word privatization was shouted out and everyone went running and screaming and the issue died,” Bushman said.

The Republican also said he supports Bush’s veto of plans to expand a popular children’s health insurance program.

“I think what we were seeing there is the door to national heath care being kicked open,” Bushman said. “I don’t think the government has a good track record of running social programs.”

A Baucus spokesman said the incumbent is working on expanding the program.

“Should Bushman decide to run and win a primary, we’ll engage, debate the issues, and stand on Max’s record of being effective,” said Barrett Kaiser. “And if Bushman does run, he’d have a great campaign slogan: ‘I’m running for the Senate and I’m against poor kids and seniors.'”

Bushman acknowledged it would be a “daunting” task to raise money to beat Baucus.

Former State Senate President Bob Keenan has said he also may run for the U.S. Senate seat, or possibly challenge Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

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