E-mail Story   Print Story
  Comments (1) Total Wednesday Apr. 23, 2014
Walsh’s Appointment
Like I was Sayin....
After Gov. Steve Bullock chose Lt. Gov. John Walsh as Montana’s interim U.S. senator, David Hawkings with D.C. publication Roll Call pointed out that Walsh is the 51st member appointed to the chamber in the past half-century. “But of that group,” Hawkings wrote, “only 19 of the 36 who tried went on to leverage the advantages of incumbency into election in their own right — a 56 percent success rate.”

To him, Walsh’s prospects for winning this year’s election haven’t changed much.

“He remains right where he was last week: the prohibitive favorite to secure the Democratic nomination, but a slight underdog in November” to Congressman Steve Daines, R-Mont.

Walsh still may benefit some from the appointment, at least in terms of increased name recognition now that he’s a member of the U.S. Senate and enjoying the attention that entails. David Parker, an associate professor of political science at Montana State University, has maintained Republicans are favored to win the seat. He wrote on his blog that perhaps the greatest benefit is the infrastructure outgoing Sen. Max Baucus left in place.

Parker writes: “If Senator Walsh wanted to maximize the benefit of his appointment, I’d pull much of his Washington staff and send them home to Montana to work in the eight offices he’ll inherit from Max Baucus.” He added, “A senator can draw upon more official resources than a member of the House.”

This fact isn’t lost on critics of the decision, which were ready to pounce within minutes of the announcement. The Montana Republican Party called the appointment “The Big Sky Buy-Off” and a “back room deal.” But would a GOP governor have acted any differently? Probably not.

Members of Bullock’s own party would criticize him if he nominated a placeholder. While the advantage, at least in this race, appears to be somewhat limited, Republicans could have done more to change the system during the last legislative session.

State Sen. Dave Wanzenried, D-Missoula, introduced a bill (SB 205) at the request of Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, also a Democrat, during the 2013 Legislature that would have required a special election for unscheduled vacancies in the U.S. Senate. The legislation points out that “Montana law already requires special federal elections for unscheduled vacancies in the office of U.S. Representative” and the bill would require the “Senate follow the exact same procedure, thus eliminating a gubernatorial appointment.”

The legislation died on final reading, 25-25, with several Democrats voting against it. But Republicans controlled the Senate 29-21 and could have pushed it through to the governor’s desk. A fiscal analysis of SB 205 found that a special election would cost the state $2 million to administer.

Perhaps that cost is high, but it’s also odd that the procedure for filling a U.S. House seat is different than that for the Senate. The Legislature could have changed that, but chose not to.

The other Democrats in the Senate race may have more legitimate gripes than the GOP as Walsh has solidified his party’s frontrunner status. Former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger said he would likely now drop out, while fellow Democratic primary candidate Dirk Adams said he will press on but called the move “political cronyism.”

“While Walsh is pressing palms in Washington, I’m going to be talking to Montanans,” Adams said. “I’ve never been handed anything.”

But despite all the different ways the appointment is described, from “back room” to “buy off,” it’s hard to see it changing the dynamics of the race all that much. Walsh and Daines will likely be their respective parties’ nominees. And Walsh faces an uphill battle in the race.
On 02-14-14, mooseberryinn commented....
Montana does NOT need another demokratik/socialist puppet for The Chairman’s politburo.  We need Mr. Daines to fight for us, and to stop the regime agenda.
Kellyn Brown
Kellyn Brown22h
Flathead County may allow political signs to be posted forever http://t.co/gCGk4AZETR No more time restraints http://t.co/p0lQziFxCp
Dillon Tabish
Dillon Tabish13h
Kalispell Annexes 40 Acres Where Rail Park Could Surface http://t.co/POsYcPnh0v
Molly Priddy
Molly Priddy13h
@Lubchansky Where are you on this pain scale? http://t.co/U2MDitEdpl
Tristan Scott
Tristan Scott19 Apr
The Replacements just played with Billy Joe accompaniment! And played an encore! #Coachella2014
Flathead Beacon
FB Headlines3h
Cooking with Gas http://t.co/NbBrQyQzGu