Posted: Apr 23, 2013 6:03 PM by MTN News
Updated: Apr 23, 2013 6:09 PM
U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) announced on Tuesday that he will not seek re-election in 2014.
Baucus says his singular goal for the past 40 years has been to do all he can for the people of Montana.
He also noted how fortunate he feels: "How grateful I am, how honored I am, privileged I am to be able to serve Montana. How thankful I am. There's no better job in the world than representing Montana in the United States Senate. There's certainly no better job that I can think of. It's a wonderful, wonderful job."
Baucus says his decision was a difficult one, but he is ready to return home to Montana.
Before that, however, he says there is still a lot of work to get done before his term ends in January 2015.
Among his priorities during the final year and half of his Senate career are the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, Tax Reform, and passing strong Farm and Highway Bills.
Baucus says that without any campaigning ahead of him, he'll have a lot of time freed up to focus on the issues.
Baucus has worked closely with Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) for the last six years, and while they didn't always agree on the issues, Tester says he, and the rest of the state, will greatly miss Baucus' experience in the Senate.
Tester said, "I was very surprised. He has been an incredible public servant for the state of Montana for a long long time. For 36 years by the time his Senate term gets done and another four years in the House. It was a big shock, I anticipated he was going to run again and when he told me he wanted to spend more time in Montana, in Big Sky country, I certainly can't fault a man for that."
And now talk begins of who will take the seat; several national news organizations are pointing to former Governor and fellow Democrat Brian Schweitzer, and there was even a website launched on Tuesday where Montanans can sign a petition encouraging Schweitzer to run.
We spoke with him this morning and he says that's not his focus right now; he says that he is busy working on electing a new board of directors at the Stillwater Mine near Billings. That should be decided on May 2nd and after that he says he'll take a look at what's next for him.
In February, Schweitzer said, "I am not goofy enough to be in the House, and I'm not senile enough to be in the Senate."
Regardless of whether or not Schweitzer will jump in the race, there are several other names being tossed around as Baucus' replacement.
One Democratic insider told us Stephanie Schriock is considering a run; she is a Butte native and the president of Emily's List, a powerful national organization dedicated to electing pro-choice women.
Several Republicans have already jumped into the race trying to regain control of the seat.
Former MT State Senator Corey Stapleton announced his candidacy in February, saying that Washington D.C. is broken and needs a new direction.
Current MT State Representative Champ Edmunds has also announced he is running, and says he hopes Baucus' retirement doesn't lead to a flood of candidates putting their names in the hat.
Edmunds noted, "Why would somebody get into the race after they think it's going to be easier to win? Would you rather have the guy who is willing to take the fight to the guy no matter how tough it's going to be? Or would you rather have the guy that's only willing to fight if it's going to be an easier fight?"
U.S. Representative Steve Daines (R-MT) told us that in light of Baucus' announcement he is giving a U.S. Senate run a serious and thoughtful consideration.
Daines predecessor in the U.S House, Denny Rehberg, recently began working at a national consulting firm, and some political operatives believe this could be the ticket to draw him back into politics.
Other names being mentioned are former Governor Marc Racicot, and MT State Senators Jason Priest and Matthew Rosendale.