Congressman Steve Daines appears more and more likely to launch a long shot campaign for the U.S. Senate against former Governor Schweitzer. If Daines does run, that means Montana has an open U.S. House seat. Which begs the question, “what Democrat might run for Congress?”
Given how Schweitzer’s popularity might benefit the rest of the ticket, a Democratic Congressional candidate could have a serious chance off winning Montana’s lone U.S. House seat.
Names circulating within the political chattering class as possible candidates include (in no particular order) Lt. Governor John Walsh, former football star John Edwards, State Auditor Monica Lindeen, Missoula Mayor John Engen, political veteran John Lewis, Commissioner Pam Bucy, former State Senator Jesse Laslovich, State Senator Kendall Van Dyk, and Billings attorney Shane Colton.
Superintendent Denise Juneau was one name that had been floated for months, but tipsters inform us that Juneau has repeatedly rebuffed encouragements to run for the House. But politicians change their minds, so we’ll just have to wait and see when it comes to Juneau.
It’s doubtful the Lt. Governor will actually leave his post in Helena, but there is a chance he could be persuaded to do so if the conditions are right. Walsh would be an incredibly strong candidate with his military background and newfound spot in the political limelight.
John Edwards, the former UM Grizzly football star and successful attorney, calls Billings home. He and his family are very active in Democratic politics and major fundraisers for the Democratic Party. His fundraising potential and “football star” status make him an intriguing prospect. However, managing a law firm may dissuade him from running for office.
State Auditor Monica Lindeen continues to create buzz over what office she may run for next. During the 2013 Mansfield-Metcalf Dinner, Lindeen debuted a new banner, which is only significant because the banner did not specify a political office. Lindeen has plenty of statewide name recognition and her high profile position within the NAIC Lindeen could possibly raise the funds necessary to run for the House. Let’s not forget that Lindeen ran for office in 2006.
Missoula’s Mayor may be the most popular and well-known mayor in the state. As a strong progressive, Mayor John Engen has the ability to energize the Democratic Party’s base. Engen is also one of the most charismatic politicians in Montana. It’s unclear how Engen would fair in the Eastern part of the state, but his political instincts should not be underestimated.
Political veteran John Lewis currently serves as the State Director for Senator Max Baucus. Lewis has spent over a decade as a top politico in Montana and is incredibly well connected within the Democratic Party and beyond. He’s also built strong relationships with moderates and independents over the years – something that could serve him well in a general election. Finally, add his access to the “Max Machine” into the mix and you’ve got a very serious candidate on your hands.
Department of Labor Commissioner Pam Bucy is another name being circulated as a possible candidate. Bucy, the Democratic candidate for Attorney General in 2012, is well connected politically. Additionally, Bucy’s statewide run increased her name recognition and makes her a serious contender.
Jesse Laslovich, a former State Senator and Representative, currently serves as legal counsel to Monica Lindeen. Laslovich, who was elected to the State Legislature at age 19, has long been at the center of political speculation. Although he narrowly lost the 2012 primary for Attorney General, Laslovich continues to be floated as a possible candidate for higher office. His Anaconda-Butte roots are sure to continue to serve him well.
State Senator Kendall Van Dyk won his seat in 2010 by four votes in the most fiercely fought race of the year. Unseating Republican Roy Brown was a coup for Montana Democrats. Could Van Dyk repeat his success at the statewide level? Probably. His credentials as a sportsman and ability to fundraise make him a real contender for the U.S. House.
Finally, another Billings resident is being circulated as a potential candidate for the U.S. House: Shane Colton. Colton is a lawyer and outdoor activist with major political allies in the state. There is significant speculation that he will eventually run for public office.
While long, this list is by no means exhaustive. However, this list does highlight some of the serious names currently being floated for the U.S. House. Democrats should be warned: a large primary field helps no one. 2012 made that very clear.
We’ll continue to watch the field as it develops.