HELENA — Accolades and praise from all political corners flowed in Tuesday for U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, who announced he wouldn’t run for re-election next year. Among the praise were comments from President Barack Obama.
“As Finance Committee chairman and a senior member of both the Agriculture and the Environment and Public Works committees, Max has been a leader on a broad range of issues that touch the lives of Americans across the country,” Obama said in a prepared statement.
He said Baucus has made small businesses a top priority, “often taking ‘Work Days’ to visit local businesses across Montana and spend a day working alongside his constituents to gain perspective and help bolster the economy.”
“Michelle and I commend Sen. Baucus on his career, and wish him and his family well in the future,” the president said.
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., also praised his colleague.
“Max’s No. 1 priority has been — and will continue to be — making Montana a better place to live, work and raise a family,” Tester said. “For years, Max has stood up for Montana values in Washington, and he has a lot to be proud of.
“I will miss his counsel and friendship in the Senate, but look forward to working with him for the next two years to move our state and our nation forward. I wish him and (his wife) Mel nothing but the best as they spend the rest of their lives enjoying Big Sky Country.”
Gov. Steve Bullock, also a Democrat, offered praise for Baucus and his record.
“From leading the effort to prevent the privatization of Social Security, to ensuring that every child in this country has access to a doctor, Max Baucus has been a fighter for Montana, and a good friend to me,” Bullock said. “Montanans will never forget Max’s decades of public service or the incredible legacy he leaves behind.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., praised Baucus for his career.
“For four decades, Sen. Max Baucus has been a dedicated public servant for the people of Montana,” Daines said. “I appreciate his lifetime of service to our state, and wish him and Melodee the very best as they finish this term and move forward with the next chapter of their lives.”
Other reactions from around Montana:
Former U.S. Rep. Pat Williams, D-Mont., who replaced Baucus in the House when Baucus was elected to the Senate: “I think he surprised a hell of a lot of us. Max, after all these years, deserves time to himself. He served Montana for a very long time. He reached one of the highest levels in the Senate of any Montanan in history, and people are justifiably proud of that. … I’m very glad he’s coming home. Not enough of us have.”
Craig Wilson, political science professor at Montana State University Billings: “Baucus is going to be 72 years old. You hear he’s happier in his private life than he’s ever been. … At his age, he can do things physically that he couldn’t do at 80. Whether you like the guy or don’t like the guy, he’s made a mark in Washington in terms of the things he’s sponsored.”
Jim Lopach, University of Montana political science professor: “He’ll be remembered clearly as a Senate leader, presently chairing probably the most powerful committee in the U.S. Senate. It’s always been seen as an American ideal to give up power, not concentrate power, not hang onto power. George Washington could have been king, could have been a saint, could have been canonized (but chose not to run for president again). …
“I think a lot of people will remember him because of the responsiveness of his office to their pretty ordinary requests — Social Security, SBA (Small Business Association) loans, helping people through the bureaucratic maze of Washington.”
Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau: “It was a surprise for everybody, but I certainly wish Sen. Baucus well, and I’m sure he made the best decision for himself. He’s really been helpful and a great supporter of mine. He’s been there when I first ran for superintendent.
"He’s been a great advocate for rural education, both in the Senate and when we had the federal government putting down one-size-fits-all rules.”
Barrett Kaiser, a former longtime aide and state director for Baucus: “Upon his retirement, Max will take his spot next to Mike Mansfield as one of Montana’s finest statesmen. He’s a man who has very deep and incredible sense of public service. He works across the aisle and works together to fight for the average Montanan. …. He’s the godfather of the Democratic Party in Montana.”
State Democratic Party Chairman Jim Elliott of Trout Creek: "Max spent more than half his life in public service with a singular focus on doing what's right for Montana. Montana Democrats will remember him in the same way we remember Mike Mansfield and Lee Metcalf — with deep gratitude and tremendous respect.”
Bowen Greenwood, executive director of the Montana Republican Party: “We at the Montana Republican Party wish Sen. Baucus well. He's served the state for a long time. Over those years, of course we've had our differences, but we all hope his new endeavors bring him happiness.”