HELENA — Former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger said Tuesday he is testing the waters whether to run for the open U.S. Senate seat next year as a Democrat or perhaps even as an independent.
He joins a number of Democrats who are considering running.
On the Republican side, some expect U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., to enter the Senate race. Already in the race are former state Sen. Corey Stapleton, R-Billings, and Rep. Champ Edmunds, R-Missoula.
“One thing about being 77 is that age gives you courage,” Bohlinger said. “It makes you bold. You come to that understanding with, hopefully, wisdom. I’ve been around the block a few times. I’ve learned from life experience.”
Bohlinger said a number of people have urged him to consider the open Senate seat being vacated by the retirement of longtime Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, now that former Gov. Brian Schweitzer announced Saturday he decided against running for the Senate.
“I think I would be a very good candidate,” Bohlinger said in an interview. “I would just have to assess what kind of support there would be for my candidacy.”
Bohlinger, a former Republican legislator from Billings, served eight years as lieutenant governor under Democrat Schweitzer on a hybrid ticket that proved popular with voters in 2004 and 2008.
“Several people have said, ‘John, you were part of the Montana miracle. We need to try to take that kind of thinking to Washington,’" he said. “We left with a $450 million ending fund balance, without raising taxes. It came because of good money management and good policy decisions. We made historical investments in education and human services efforts.”
Bohlinger said he really enjoyed having a seat at the table where public policy was formed and misses that.
“I’m blessed with lots of energy and good health,” he said. “I’d like to have a seat at the table where public policy is formed.”
He cited his proven record of public service as an advocate for the common good and development of an environment that encouraged job creation through education and tax policy.
Bohlinger, then a Billings businessman, served three terms in the Montana House in 1993, 1995 and 1997 and he unseated a fellow Republican to win a state Senate seat in 1998 and was re-elected in 2002. Schweitzer asked him to join the ticket in 2003.
“I first ran as a Republican,” he said. “In the ’70’s and '80’s, the Republican Party was fiscally responsible. They had a social conscience. It’s a different party today. I have a hard time identifying with the hard right. The Republican Party left me in the ‘90’s.”
Bohlinger, who now lives in Helena, said he still has plenty of good friends who are Republicans.