Schweitzer decision prompts Dems to look at possibility of running

2013-07-13T11:23:00Z 2014-05-30T10:55:31Z Schweitzer decision prompts Dems to look at possibility of runningGazette State Bureau The Billings Gazette
July 13, 2013 11:23 am  • 

LEWISTOWN — After former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer decided to forego running for the U.S. Senate, some other Democrats said Saturday that they will consider jumping in.

Names of other possibilities surfaced at the state Democratic Party convention here, along with others on social media.

The list included two state elected officials, Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau and state Auditor Monica Lindeen. Both were first elected in 2008 and were re-elected last year to four-year terms.

Neither was ready to make a decision yet.

“I’m focused on being superintendent,” Juneau said. “Obviously, people have been encouraging me to run (for the Senate). It’s a surprising turn of events. I feel obligated to think about it."

Juneau said she has “a lot of talking to do with friends and family” before making a decision whether to enter the Senate race.

Lindeen, a former legislator and congressional candidate, said Schweitzer’s decision “truly changes the landscape."

“Obviously, it gives my husband and daughter and I some things to talk about,” Lindeen said. “That’s a big decision to make. I want to make sure it’s the right decision for me and my family. I think it’s important that we have strong leadership in the U.S. Senate. We’re losing a lot with Max Baucus stepping down.”

State Rep. Franke Wilmer, D-Bozeman, who ran for the U.S. House last year, said she wants to wait to see if U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., jumps to the Senate before deciding.

She pointed to Daines’ fundraising efforts so far. He reported that he raised $433,000 for the quarter ending June 30 and had about $600,000 left in the bank. Wilmer said Daines would have a financial advantage that would be tough to compete with.

“If Daines runs for the Senate, we have a better chance of winning the House,” Wilmer said.

If Daines goes for the Senate, Wilmer said she would not rule out running for the Senate.

Another name being mentioned by some political operatives for the Senate race is Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List, a national group that raises money for female, pro-abortion-rights candidates. Schriock, who couldn’t be reached for comment, was raised in Butte.

She ran Jon Tester’s general election campaign in 2006, when he unseated Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont. Schriock later served as chief of staff for Tester.

Other names being mentioned at the convention were Lt. Gov. John Walsh of Helena; Supreme Court Justice Mike Wheat, a former state senator from Bozeman; and Mike Halligan, a former state senator from Missoula who now is executive director of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation.

Attempts to reach the three of them were unsuccessful.

Former state auditor John Morrison, of Helena, a Senate candidate in 2006, said he isn’t likely to run. Morrison served eight years as auditor.

“It's tempting, but probably not the right time for me or my family. I do have a full plate right now,” Morrison said. “There are many ways besides politics to serve Montana and our country, and I feel like I'm still doing that.”

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