Five Things to Know About the Newest U.S. Senator

When he arrives, Lt. Gov. John Walsh will have to focus more on his election than on his day job.

A view of the US Capitol on January 27, 2014 in Washington.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
Alex Roarty
See more stories about...
Alex Roarty
Feb. 7, 2014, 7:10 a.m.

Montana Demo­crat­ic Gov. Steve Bul­lock ap­poin­ted his lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor, John Walsh, to fill the seat of de­part­ing Sen. Max Baucus, who on Thursday was con­firmed as U.S. am­bas­sad­or to China.

Walsh was already run­ning for the Sen­ate to suc­ceed Baucus, and he will be think­ing as much about polit­ics as policy, since he’s fa­cing a tough cam­paign against Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Steve Daines in the fall. Even though he’ll now be the in­cum­bent, he be­gins the con­test as an un­der­dog.

Here are five things to know about John Walsh:

He gives Demo­crats their best chance to re­tain Baucus’s seat. The par­tic­u­lars of Walsh’s bio­graphy should en­cour­age the party: He was born raised in Butte, a small town about an hour south of Helena. He’s spent his adult life in the mil­it­ary, serving in the state’s Na­tion­al Guard for 33 years be­fore be­com­ing its lead­er as ad­jut­ant gen­er­al. His polit­ic­al back­ground is more lim­ited, but what he’s done so far also looks good on pa­per. As Bul­lock’s tick­et mate, he won a close race in 2012 to hold the gov­ernor­ship for the Demo­crat­ic Party.

“John is the kind of guy who may not agree with the party on every single is­sue, but he has the self­less­ness and cour­age to al­ways do what he thinks is right for Montana,” said Demo­crat­ic Sen­at­ori­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee Chair­man Mi­chael Ben­net in a state­ment.

Re­pub­lic­ans already have their at­tacks against Walsh lined up. Walsh has been dogged in re­cent months by re­ports that in 2010, as ad­jut­ant gen­er­al, he was rep­rim­anded for im­prop­erly en­cour­aging his charges to join a private or­gan­iz­a­tion. Walsh was seek­ing a lead­er­ship po­s­i­tion in the group, which ad­voc­ated on be­half of the Na­tion­al Guard, and he was wor­ried that the Montana Na­tion­al Guard’s low par­ti­cip­a­tion rate would harm his chances, ac­cord­ing to re­ports. The rep­rim­and, writ­ten by the Army’s vice chief of staff, pulled no punches, telling Walsh that his “fail­ure to ad­here to the Army val­ues causes me to ques­tion your abil­ity to lead.” Ex­pect that sen­tence to re­appear fre­quently dur­ing the cam­paign.

If Walsh wins in the fall, he joins a long tra­di­tion of suc­cess­ful Montana Demo­crats. The party has had wide­spread suc­cess in the state des­pite its long his­tory of sup­port­ing Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates. Baucus had held onto his seat since 1978, fel­low Sen. Jon Test­er has won two statewide elec­tions, and Sch­weitzer dom­in­ated the state’s polit­ic­al scene for nearly a dec­ade. The coun­try’s polit­ic­al en­vir­on­ment isn’t shap­ing up well for Demo­crats in 2014, but Walsh can lean on a tra­di­tion of vic­tory in Montana.

He im­me­di­ately be­comes a crit­ic­al cog in Demo­crat­ic hopes to hold the Sen­ate. After Baucus re­tired and Sch­weitzer sur­pris­ingly passed on a Sen­ate run, most ana­lysts penciled in Montana as a likely Re­pub­lic­an pickup. Daines is still favored to win there, but Walsh’s ap­point­ment makes his path to vic­tory a little more chal­len­ging. Montana is one of four states — Arkan­sas, South Dakota, and West Vir­gin­ia are the oth­er three — that are close to must-wins if the GOP hopes to take the ma­jor­ity.

Walsh is not the only Montana Demo­crat run­ning for the Sen­ate. The state’s former lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor, John Bo­hlinger, is also seek­ing the party’s nom­in­a­tion, and he says he won’t go down without a fight. Bo­hlinger, a former Re­pub­lic­an, served un­der Sch­weitzer, and the state’s former top Demo­crat hasn’t been shy about com­pli­ment­ing his former No. 2 . (Sch­weitzer has so far stayed neut­ral in the primary.) Any fight on Walsh’s left could be harm­ful to his chances of win­ning.

What We're Following See More »
LOST BY HALF A PERCENTAGE POINT
Sanders Wants a Recount in Kentucky
37 minutes ago
THE LATEST

Bernie Sanders "signed a letter Tuesday morning requesting a full and complete check and recanvass of the election results in Kentucky ... where he trails Hillary Clinton by less than one-half of 1 percent of the vote. The Sanders campaign said it has asked the Kentucky secretary of state to have election officials review electronic voting machines and absentee ballots from last week's primary in each of the state's 120 counties.

Source:
THE QUESTION
How Much Did the IRS Overpay in Earned Income Tax Credit Benefits?
4 hours ago
THE ANSWER

An estimated $15.6 billion, "according to a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report."

Source:
TIES TO CLINTON GLOBAL INITIATIVE
McAuliffe Under Investigation for Fundraising
4 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) “is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the FBI and … the Justice Department” for potentially improper contributions to his 2013 campaign, including while he was a Clinton Global Initiative board member. ... Among the McAuliffe donations that drew the interest of the investigators was $120,000 from” former Chinese legislator Wang Wenliang. “U.S. election law prohibits foreign nationals from donating to … elections. … But Wang holds U.S. permanent resident status.”

Source:
RAISES SEX ASSAULT, VINCE FOSTER
Trump Takes Aim at Bill Clinton
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump is reviving some of the ugliest political chapters of the 1990s with escalating personal attacks on Bill Clinton's character, part of a concerted effort to smother Hillary Clinton 's campaign message with the weight of decades of controversy. Trump's latest shot came Monday when he released an incendiary Instagram video that includes the voices of two women who accused the former president of sexual assault, underscoring the presumptive Republican nominee's willingness to go far beyond political norms in his critique of his likely Democratic rival. ...In one recent interview, Trump said another topic of potential concern is the suicide of former White House aide Vincent Foster, which remains the focus of intense and far-fetched conspiracy theories on the Internet."

Source:
FUROR AFTER HOUSE OVERSIGHT HEARING
Head of Security for TSA Has Been Reassigned
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The head of security for the Transportation Security Administration, Kelly Hoggan, has been removed from his position after a hearing about the agency's management, the House Oversight Committee says." Deputy assistant administrator Darby LaJoye will take over for Hoggan on a temporary basis.

Source:
×