Bullock Appoints Lt. Gov. Walsh as Interim U.S. Senator

By Beacon Staff

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced Friday morning that he is appointing Lt. Gov. John Walsh to serve out the remainder of U.S. Sen. Max Baucus’ term.

The Senate confirmed Baucus as the next U.S. ambassador to China on Thursday, concluding the Montana Democrat’s 35-year career in the Senate. Baucus announced last year that he would not seek another term, and was recently nominated as President Obama’s top choice for the diplomatic post.

As the interim appointee, Walsh will serve until January, when the winner of this year’s election takes the seat.

Bullock said he told Walsh last night about the appointment, and that he has not yet chosen a replacement to serve alongside him as lieutenant governor.

“I have been considering folks all along as I hear from them. Ultimately I chose who I thought would be the best candidate,” Bullock said.

Walsh will face U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., in the general election. The governor’s anticipated appointment of his lieutenant governor has led to widespread speculation about whether it will buoy Walsh’s candidacy.

University of Montana associate professor of political science Robert Saldin said the appointment could either help or hinder Walsh’s campaign.

He’ll be a sitting U.S. Senator come election time, providing invaluable legislative experience. At the same time, he’ll also have developed a voting record for voters and Republican strategists to target.

Walsh said he would balance his work on the campaign trail with his work in the Senate just as he has balanced it with his work as lieutenant governor.

“While serving as lieutenant governor and campaigning for the U.S. Senate my number one priority was taking care of Montana citizens and doing my job as lieutenant governor,” he said.

“This is going to give me an opportunity to continue to serve the citizens of Montana, and we will determine who is the best candidate for the U.S. Senate in November.”

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