McCain Replaces Bohlinger with Burns as State Campaign Chairman

By Beacon Staff

BILLINGS (AP) – John McCain’s campaign on Saturday unexpectedly appointed former U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns as chairman of his Montana presidential campaign, a post that belonged to Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger for four weeks.

McCain spokeswoman Crystal Benton announced the change toward the end of the Montana Republican Party’s Winter Kickoff in Billings.

The lieutenant governor is on his honeymoon in China and couldn’t be reached for comment, but a spokeswoman for the governor’s office said Bohlinger still supported McCain.

“John is honored to support McCain and is also happy to see former senator Burns jump on board,” spokeswoman Sarah Elliott said.

The McCain campaign appointed Bohlinger chairman Dec. 26.

In a telephone interview with the Billings Gazette, Burns, R-Mont., called his appointment sudden, but said he had spoken recently with McCain about some role in the campaign.

“Well, John, you know, we served together a long time and we’ve been in dialogue on the campaign. I’ve been on the fence as to who I wanted to support as president of the United States,” he said. “The way he wants to run an administration, I think he’s got the qualifications to be president.”

Bohlinger, a Republican who ran on what was billed as a split ticket with Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer in 2004 and is doing so again for 2008, has drawn the ire of the Montana Republican Party. The state GOP says it’s not sure Bohlinger is a real Republican for helping the opposition.