Politics

Nov 6, 2013 12:05 AM by Sanjay Talwani - MTN News

Bohlinger announces candidacy for U.S. Senate

HELENA - John Bohlinger, a former Montana state legislator and eight-year lieutenant governor under Brian Schweitzer, is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacating by the retiring Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT).

He made the announcement at the Lewis & Clark County Democrats' fundraising dinner Tuesday.

"I have submitted papers to the Federal Election Commission that will identify me as a Democratic candidate for the United States Senate," he said in a telephone interview with MTN News on Tuesday evening.

His candidacy sets up a primary contest against the current lieutenant governor, John Walsh - the former Adjutant General of the Montana National Guard. Dirk Adams, a Wilsall rancher, former banker and newcomer to politics, is also running as a Democrat.

One of the Democrats will likely face Republican U.S. Representative Steve Daines (R-MT), who is expected to announce his candidacy for the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.

Bohlinger was elected three times as a Republican state representative from Billings and twice as a state senator. He also was elected twice as a Republican on the ticket with Schweitzer, a Democrat.

Asked what issues motivated his candidacy, Bohlinger said too many people are unemployed or underemployed and that as a U.S. senator he would be able to influence policies to encourage corporations to bring jobs back to the United States.

A former Marine, he also said Americans are tired of war. "It's time to bring our troops home," he said. "It's time to rebuild America."

Of his rivals for the position, he had praise for Walsh, but said he thought the people of Montana, not Washington or Montana political insiders, should pick the Democratic nominee.

He said it was "ironic" that Daines voted for a Farm Bill that would reduce food stamps, and called feeding the hungry a "moral" issue.

On the healthcare reform known as Obamacare, he said it has problems and needs to be fixed, but he said it also has good aspects, notably the ban on health plans that deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

"Health care is a civil right," he said. "It's like freedom. It's like liberty."

Bohlinger said he's ready to work full-time to do the "retail politics" as well as engage in the fundraising necessary to be competitive. Daines, for example, has more than $1 million in his campaign account.

At 77, Bohlinger is far older than both his main rivals, but he said he has the health and vigor for the campaign and the job: "I've known 30-year-olds who were old men and 90-year-olds who were young and vigorous," he said.

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