Montana’s Walsh Ends Senate Campaign

The Democrat is ending his campaign for a full term after plagiarism charges rocked his candidacy.

Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., speaks during an event in the Capitol Visitor Center on the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, July 23, 2014. 
National Journal
Alex Roarty and Emily Schultheis
Aug. 7, 2014, 12:08 p.m.

Demo­crat­ic Sen. John Walsh sus­pen­ded his cam­paign for a full Sen­ate term on Thursday, bow­ing to pres­sure to back out of the race after a pla­gi­ar­ism scan­dal threatened to elim­in­ate his already slim chance of vic­tory in Montana.

In a state­ment to Lee News­pa­pers, Walsh said he wanted to fo­cus on fin­ish­ing his term as a sen­at­or.

“It is time for us all to re­turn to the real is­sues of this elec­tion,” he said.

Walsh, the mil­it­ary vet­er­an ap­poin­ted to re­place Sen. Max Baucus in Feb­ru­ary, was run­ning against Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Steve Daines in the Montana race. The state’s Demo­crats now must scramble to find a re­place­ment can­did­ate in the next two weeks, an un­en­vi­able task just three months be­fore Elec­tion Day in a race many already ex­pec­ted Re­pub­lic­ans to win.

The news comes amidst heavy ru­mors that Walsh has been mulling his polit­ic­al fu­ture this week. Loc­al news out­lets re­por­ted that Walsh had can­celed a series of pub­lic events, in­clud­ing a Tues­day night fun­draiser in Jack­son Hole, Wyo. — an in­dic­a­tion that he is ready to end his cam­paign.

Ori­gin­ally, staffers were told they would re­ceive a call or email Tues­day night with news about Walsh’s de­cision, a seni­or Walsh aide told Na­tion­al Journ­al. Later Tues­day night, they were told the de­cision would in­stead be an­nounced to staff on Wed­nes­day morn­ing. Walsh an­nounced the de­cision on a call with staffers, the seni­or aide said, adding that Walsh’s wife Janet was “openly sob­bing” as she thanked mem­bers of the cam­paign.

Ed­it­or­i­al boards across the state called for his de­par­ture from the race over the week­end. The Mis­souli­an said Walsh needs to “bow out of the Sen­ate race im­me­di­ately”; the Billings Gaz­ette wrote that Walsh should “stop cam­paign­ing and do his ut­most to serve Montanans well” for the re­mainder of his Sen­ate term.

A New York Times re­port in late Ju­ly found that Walsh had pla­gi­ar­ized large por­tions of his mas­ters thes­is at the U.S. Army War Col­lege in Pennsylvania. Walsh ini­tially apo­lo­gized for his ac­tions, with both the can­did­ate and the cam­paign claim­ing his pla­gi­ar­ism was a res­ult of post-trau­mat­ic stress dis­order after serving in Ir­aq.

Walsh later re­versed those state­ments, say­ing PTSD was not at fault: “I am in no way — no way — ty­ing what I did to any type of PTSD,” Walsh told a loc­al ra­dio sta­tion.”It had noth­ing to do with the mis­take that I made.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Helena In­de­pend­ent Re­cord, a nearly 200-del­eg­ate com­mit­tee will con­vene to pick the new nom­in­ee, a group com­pris­ing party lead­ers from across Montana. They have un­til Aug. 20 to do so. 

Pos­sible can­did­ates to re­place Walsh on the Demo­crat­ic tick­et in­clude former NARAL Pro-Choice Amer­ica Pres­id­ent Nancy Keen­an; EMILY’s List Pres­id­ent Stephanie Schriock; John Bo­hlinger, the former lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor who lost to Walsh in the Demo­crat­ic primary; and ranch­er Dirk Adams, who also ran in the primary.

There will also be pres­sure on former Montana Gov. Bri­an Sch­weitzer, who turned down a chance to run last year, to re­con­sider in the wake of Walsh’s de­cision.

The man who fin­ished a dis­tant second to Walsh in the Demo­crat­ic primary, Bo­hlinger, told Na­tion­al Journ­al he would be open to ac­cept­ing the nom­in­a­tion.

“If they con­sider me a vi­able can­did­ate, I would run with the pro­vi­sion that the Demo­crat­ic Party provide suf­fi­cient money for a cred­ible cam­paign as well as staff and vo­lun­teers around the state,” he said.

He made clear, however, that he would not seek sup­port for the nom­in­a­tion if the state party com­mit­tee de­cided to pick an­oth­er nom­in­ee.

Demo­crats wor­ried not just about the neg­at­ive im­pact of the Walsh al­leg­a­tions on his own race, but the ripple ef­fect he could have on down-bal­lot races in the state — in par­tic­u­lar, on the state’s at-large con­gres­sion­al race, where Demo­crat John Lewis re­mains com­pet­it­ive.

Pos­sible can­did­ates to re­place Walsh on the Demo­crat­ic tick­et in­clude former NARAL Pro-Choice Amer­ica Pres­id­ent Nancy Keen­an, EMILY’s List Pres­id­ent Stephanie Schriock, John Bo­hlinger, the former lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor who lost to Walsh in the Demo­crat­ic primary or ranch­er Dirk Adams, who also ran in the primary. There will also be pres­sure on former Montana Gov. Bri­an Sch­weitzer, who turned down a chance to run last year, to re­con­sider in the wake of Walsh’s de­cision.Pos­sible can­did­ates to re­place Walsh on the Demo­crat­ic tick­et in­clude former NARAL Pro-Choice Amer­ica Pres­id­ent Nancy Keen­an, EMILY’s List Pres­id­ent Stephanie Schriock, John Bo­hlinger, the former lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor who lost to Walsh in the Demo­crat­ic primary or ranch­er Dirk Adams, who also ran in the primary.There will also be pres­sure on former Montana Gov. Bri­an Sch­weitzer, who turned down a chance to run last year, to re­con­sider in the wake of Walsh’s de­cisio
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