HELENA (AP) – Montana’s U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, touted his experience and work on current issues as prime reasons voters should elect him to a sixth term.
The 66-year-old Democrat has been raising millions of dollars for his campaign fund, and the decision to run again was expected.
“I’m running again because there’s still more to do,” Baucus said. “More people to help. More change to create for our state.”
Baucus last faced a serious challenge in 1996, when current U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg ran against him.
This year, he is being challenged so far by three Republicans, former Montana House Majority Leader Michael Lange and engineering consultant Kirk Bushman, both of Billings along with political unknown Anton Pearson of St. Regis, who recently announced he will run against Baucus.
Baucus has raised about $9 million so far, according to January campaign finance reports.
Baucus, first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1978, is likely to emphasize his 29 years of experience in the Senate and his position as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Bushman said Baucus’ money and experience could backfire on him.
“I think Montanans are starting to see that Max has been in there for a long time,” Bushman said. “Seniority is indeed a big question. My points is, is he using it to help us or not?”
Bushman said the large out-of-state donors expect something from Baucus in exchange for their money.
Baucus said the donations never influence the decisions he makes.
“All I care about is what is right for Montana,” Baucus said. “I just care about the state.”
Baucus said he was not going to focus on his opponents, and did not comment on their candidacies.
“I’m not paying any attention to anybody else,” he said.
Lange said Baucus has promoted trade agreements that he believes have damaged Montana’s farmers and ranchers and that he’s hurt Montana families and businesses with energy votes.
“We intend to beat him. The money’s irrelevant. You win elections with votes, not money,” Lange said. “I’ve had experience with that. I’ve been outspent every time.”
Baucus did address other issues during his announcement.
He said the country should be out of Iraq in six to 12 months, but will likely need bases in the region to help stabilize the area.
Baucus also said he will keep pressure on the administration to eventually sign a bill for children’s health insurance that has been vetoed, and work to make health care more affordable.
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