HELENA — Republican Corey Stapleton is “absolutely the most electable Republican” running for governor here in 2012, while his GOP rivals “have skeletons in their closet” that could hurt their chances of winning, his running mate, Bob Keenan, said Wednesday.
Asked at a press conference to elaborate about the “skeletons” in their opponents’ closets, Keenan declined.
“No, I won’t do that,” he told reporters. “That’s your job, and you’re good at it.”
Keenan’s comment came at a Capitol event where Stapleton introduced the former Bigfork legislator and president of the Senate in 2005.
The comments came as Keenan praised Stapleton, a former naval officer with whom he served in the Senate.
Asked to elaborate about why Stapleton is the most electable, Keenan recalled how he had made a “bold move” in 2006 and filed against Republican U.S. Conrad Burns, who was seeking a fourth six-year term. Keenan said he was concerned about Burns’ electability in November.
While Burns defeated Keenan in the primary by more than a 3-to-1 margin, he went on to lose to Democrat Jon Tester in a close race in November 2006.
“I know that sometimes it’s harder to be right than wrong, but I ended up being right in that regard,” Keenan said. “I anticipate that after the primary, when candidates become vetted, then Corey Stapleton is a 24-carat for governor, and I think other Republican candidates have skeletons in their closet that concern me and hurt their electability.”
Stapleton trails only Rick Hill in the amount of campaign money left in the bank as of Dec. 31 in the seven-person Republican field for governor. Hill had about $283,700 in cash on hand then, while Stapleton showed a balance of $125,000. Stapleton has personally loaned his campaign $50,000 and repaid $10,000.
Two Democrats are running for governor, which is an open seat. Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, cannot run for re-election because of term limits.