HELENA — The Montana Democratic Party is endorsing Sen. John Walsh in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat over two other candidates who maintain the party should have remained neutral.
Montana Democratic Party rules state the party is prohibited from spending money or giving other support to any candidate in a statewide or federal primary unless two-thirds of the party’s executive board votes to support a “proven incumbent.”
Party spokesman Bryan Watt tells the Great Falls Tribune that the board voted on March 9 to support Walsh in the U.S. Senate race.
Walsh is not only the incumbent, but is “the only true Democrat” in the race, Watt said. Former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger served six terms in the state Legislature as a Republican and was listed as a Republican when he ran for lieutenant governor, Watt added.
Watt also pointed out that Wilsall rancher Dirk Adams has made campaign donations to Republican candidates in the past. “When you look at both of them, historically speaking, they have supported Republican causes,” he said.
The party has made primary endorsements in the past, including U.S. Sen. Max Baucus in 2002 and 2008 and Gov. Brian Schweitzer in 2008, the newspaper reported.
Bohlinger said the party should have stayed out of a primary that has legitimate candidates.
“It troubles me to think that the Montana Democratic Party is no longer a voice of the people of Montana, but a vehicle for D.C. insiders to control election outcomes,” he said.
A decade ago he disagreed with Democrats on abortion, but his views have changed, Bohlinger said.
“It is no secret my legislative career was that of a moderate Republican with a Catholic conscience,” he said. “People evolve in their thinking, and mine did so after listening to testimony from women confronted with the choice. It is their body, it is their choice.”
He has campaigned on behalf of Democratic candidates at the request of the party, Bohlinger said.
Some critics of Adams note he has donated money to Republican candidates in the past.
“I think Democrats would be a lot more worried about John Walsh getting tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions in the last six months from polluting industries such as TransCanada, as well as from other representatives of interests that don’t reflect Democratic values, than the several hundred bucks I gave three Republican candidates 12 to 17 years ago,” Adams said.
Walsh’s campaign noted that less than $5,000 of the $100,000 in campaign money Adams raised over the past quarter came from Montana residents.
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