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
Add to Briefcase
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 »
RESTROOM ISSUES RETURN
Trump To Rescind Trans Protections
55 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

Donald Trump is planning to reverse an Obama-era order requiring that schools allow students to use the bathroom that coincides with their gender identity. Trump "has green-lighted the plan for the Justice Department and Education Department to send a “Dear Colleague” letter to schools rescinding the guidance." A case is going before the Supreme Court on March 28 in which Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school student, is suing his high school for forbidding him to use the men's room.

Source:
NAIVE, RISK TAKER
Russia Compiling Dossier on Trump’s Mind
2 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Retired Russian diplomats and members of Vladimir Putin's staff are compiling a dossier "on Donald Trump's psychological makeup" for the Russian leader. "Among its preliminary conclusions is that the new American leader is a risk-taker who can be naïve, according to a senior Kremlin adviser."

Source:
“HORRIBLE” AND “PAINFUL”
Trump Addresses Threats On Jewish Community Centers
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS
COULD COME TUESDAY
Trump Set To Issue New Travel Ban
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Donald Trump is set to issue a new and more focused executive order clarifying the scope of his travel ban, hoping that the order will survive legal challenges. The new order would focus on the same seven countries, "but would only bar entry to those without a visa and who have never entered the United States before. Unlike the original order, people from those countries who already have permanent U.S. residency (green cards) or visas would not face any restrictions." Some lawyers believe the government will now have much stronger standing, though lawyers who challenged the initial order see the same core problems with the forthcoming ban.

Source:
KELLOGG WILL RETURN TO NSC COS
Trump Taps Lt. Gen. McMaster as NSC Head
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

"President Donald Trump announced Monday that Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster will serve as his next national security adviser, filling the void left last week by the sudden dismissal of Michael Flynn. ... Retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who had been serving as the acting national security adviser since Flynn's exit, will return to his role as chief of staff of the National Security Council." The pick was widely praised on both sides of the aisle.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login