HELENA — The Democratic Party can still win the Senate seat being vacated by Max Baucus, but it’s going to take a lot more work now that former Gov. Brian Schweitzer isn’t running, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester said Friday.
Schweitzer was the Democrats’ best chance of winning the 2014 election, but there are good potential candidates in the state Legislature, administration and the private sector who can the 2014 election if they’re willing to do the work, Tester said.
Losing Baucus’ seat to a Republican candidate would make it more difficult for Democrats to hold onto their slim majority in the Senate. Turning a non-Schweitzer candidate into a winner will mean more hands-on campaigning, Tester said.
Schweitzer “could have probably done everything without me. He didn’t need me. Truth of the matter is, that’s a fact,” Tester said. “It’s going to be a lot more work for me now.”
Schweitzer announced last Saturday that he would not run next year, saying he “kicked the tires” but ultimately decided that he didn’t want to leave Montana for Washington.
His announcement prompted speculation the former governor was discouraged by party infighting and anonymous attacks by other Democrats.
Tester, who was at the state Capitol Friday to announce the launch of a $2 million grant program for young entrepreneurs, said he and his staff had nothing to do with any attacks.
Tester called such allegations “baloney.”
“We did nothing, I mean nothing, to inhibit him from running,” Tester said. “You know Brian Schweitzer? You know me? Does that shoe fit?
“That I would actually try to go after him, it just doesn’t fit. It’s not who I am. I’m not that kind of a person.”
Baucus told The Great Falls Tribune the decision not to run was Schweitzer’s alone.
“Brian is a very smart guy and a very good governor. I have not talked to Brian since that decision, but he obviously has his own reasons,” Baucus told the newspaper.
Schweitzer’s announcement left Democrats scrambling and several potential candidates considering a run. Attention has shifted to Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau and Lt. Gov. John Walsh, since Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen said she would not run.
Many expect the state’s freshman House member, Republican Rep. Steve Daines, to run, and he has said that he is considering it.
Two Republicans, state Rep. Champ Edmunds and former state Sen. Corey Stapleton, have announced bids.
Baucus has held the seat since 1979. He announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election.
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