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
Emily Schultheis and Alex Roarty
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Emily Schultheis Alex Roarty
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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