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Walsh appointed as Montana's next U.S. Senator

Dan Boyce

Just one day after Montana’s Senior Senator, Max Baucus, was confirmed as the next U.S. Ambassador to China, Governor Steve Bullock has appointed his Lieutenant Governor, John Walsh, to serve the remainder of Baucus’s term. The move keeps the post in Democratic hands and may bolster the party’s hopes of keeping the seat in November.

“I wanted to appoint someone who I believed would represent the values Montanans hold important,” Bullock said. “I wanted to appoint someone who I believed would be working to find solutions, not further dividing our state and nation.  And I wanted to appoint someone who I truly believed would wake up each day focused on putting Montana – and Montanans – first.”

Walsh, already a Senate candidate, was widely expected to receive Bullock’s nod after the Obama Administration nominated Baucus to the ambassadorship last December. Prior to being elected Lt. Gov. in 2012, Walsh served a more than 30-year career in the Montana National Guard, including as Adjutant General from 2008 to 2012. He said during the Friday press conference in the state capitol building that Montanans believe there’s a lot that needs to be fixed in Washington.  

“There are too many politicians who put their own political agendas ahead of doing what’s right.  Too many folks who don’t take responsibility for their actions,” Walsh said. “That’s not how I work.  That’s not how Montana works.”

Montana Republicans have called the appointment a “backroom political deal” intended to give Walsh a political edge against likely-Republican Senate nominee, Congressman Steve Daines. The GOP has criticized Bullock for not being more transparent in his process for choosing his appointment.

"The Big Sky Buy-Off is complete, and Governor Bullock has sent Montanans a clear message that he would rather take marching orders from Barack Obama and Harry Reid than listen to the people of Montana,” said Montana Republican Party Chairman Will Deschamps in a statement.

“I’ll leave it to the voters to decide what happens in November, but I chose the person that I believe would be most effective,” Bullock said when asked about the GOP’s concerns. He said Thursday night was the first time he told Walsh he would be appointing him.

Walsh’s resignation as Lieutenant Governor will become effective Sunday night. He will be sworn-in as Senator in Washington, D.C. Tuesday. Bullock said he has not made a decision as to who will replace Walsh as Lt. Gov., but says that announcement will be coming soon.

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