Former Republican Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger said Thursday he would be the Democratic candidate most able to defeat Congressman Steve Daines in the 2014 Senate Race.
The 77 year-old Bohlinger announced his Senate bid during a Tuesday dinner party held by the Lewis and Clark County Democratic Central Committee, but it was largely overshadowed by Daines announcing his Senate ambitions during a high-profile gathering in Bozeman on Wednesday.
“I think that I can beat Daines,” Bohlinger said, “I say this because of my statewide name recognition and because of my 20 years at the table where public policy was formed.”
Bohlinger, a former marine, entered the state legislature after running a women’s clothing store for more than 30 years. He served three terms in the Montana House and two in the Senate as a Republican. A self-described moderate, he angered many in the state GOP when he ran on the ticket of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brian Schweitzer in 2004.
“I think that we have to move to the middle in order to move forward,” Bohlinger said, “The extreme point of view, whether it comes from the left or from the right is not where good legislation is crafted.”
He hopes those values will appeal enough to Democrats in the primary race. So far, he is facing political unknown Wilsall-area rancher Dirk Adams and current Lt. Gov. John Walsh. Walsh has already received support of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and an endorsement from Sen. Jon Tester. Bohlinger called that inappropriate.
“I think it’s the people of the state of Montana who should choose the candidate, not these political operatives that work within the party,” he said.
Bohlinger listed his political priorities if elected as bringing home America’s military forces and put them to work rebuilding the country’s infrastructure and reforming the tax code and changing Senate rules to remove the filibuster.
Bohlinger said he had been thinking about the entering the race for a few months, but made his final decision during the federal government shutdown, which he faults Congressman Daines for taking votes which led to the 16-day standoff.
Daines does have challengers in his Republican primary. State Rep. Champ Edmunds of Missoula and political unknown David Leaser of Kalispell are in the race, but Daines is the heavy favorite.