Montana Democrats are preparing for their party’s annual convention this Friday and Saturday in Lewistown.
The party will be electing officers and examining their rules. Executive Director Andrea Marcoccio said the party will be using the convention to unify—to build on the types of strategies which allowed Democrats to win big statewide races in 2012.
"In addition our legislative races are a huge priority for the Democratic party,” she said. “Our year-round legislative program is already in full affect and we're very excited to be working up and down the ticket this year."
“The challenge is always getting folks fired up and getting folks out there excited about the political landscape,” said Senator Jon Tester. When he looks at priorities, what people will be talking about this convention, he sees the open US Senate seat being vacated by Senior Senator Max Baucus. Baucus is not seeking re-election in 2014.
Two Republicans are already running for the seat, Missoula Legislator Champ Edmunds and former gubernatorial candidate Corey Stapleton. Montana Congressman Steve Daines also says he is considering a run.
On the Democratic side, the question continues to be whether former Governor Brian Schweitzer will throw in his name. Schweitzer did not return a call seeking comment. He’s been mum with the press but has also done nothing to stop any buzz about a potential run.
Senator Tester said Schweitzer is the Democrats’ best chance to win that seat.
“I think Brian is a proven commodity,” Tester said. “ He has been a very successful Governor for eight years.”
He said the Democrats need to get a candidate soon though. Tester thinks it would be a good idea to announce in conjunction with the Democratic convention.
“It makes for good press and it certainly will make opportunities for press folks to show up in Lewistown because there’s a chance, although I don’t know how real it is that he may be announcing this weekend. Maybe he announces next weekend, maybe he never announces, I don’t know,” Tester said.
The group ‘Draft Brian Schweitzer’ has been holding events around the state, trying to drum up support for a Schweitzer run, and raising money to give to his campaign if he does jump in.
State organizer Sean Whiting says the group has spoken with Schweitzer but has no official connection to him.
Whiting says he doesn’t know if the announcement is coming this weekend.
“I’ve heard in the near-term future, I mean, relatively soon is what I’ve heard that a decision could be made,” he said.
Whiting believes momentum continues to build for Schweitzer’s candidacy.
But it hasn’t been without a hitch.
Fox Business News Reporter David Asman broke a recent story which claims Schweitzer set up a non-profit political action committee in 2009, a dark money group which funneled more than $300 thousand to another political nonprofit in D.C.
Asman asserts both organizations were illegally operating to benefit Schweitzer’s ambitions.
“It seems clear that this is just a political vehicle of Brian Schweitzer, who wants to run for the Senate,” Asman said in the story.
Associates of Schweitzer’s have denied any wrong doing.
Whiting with the ‘Draft Brian Schweitzer’ campaign does not believe it has hurt his potential candidacy. If Schweitzer’s intentions are not made clear this weekend, Whiting does not think the former governor is waiting too long.
“There still are nearly 500 days until the election and there’s still I think about 7 or 8 months until the decision deadline for our primary,” he said.
Again, the Montana Democratic Party Convention is being held Friday and Saturday in Lewistown. Brian Schweitzer’s name does not formally appear anywhere on the agenda.