News broke this afternoon that Sen. John Walsh had announced to supporters that he had decided to end his 2014 Senate campaign. Charles S. Johnson with the Lee State Bureau first reported the story, and Walsh's campaign officially confirmed the news in an emailed statement roughly an hour later. Walsh had been polling behind his Republican opponent, Rep. Steve Daines, even before The New York Times published an article late last month alleging that Walsh had plagiarized a 14-page research paper while getting his master's degree from the U.S. Army War College in 2007. Walsh's full statement regarding his withdrawal from the senate race follows:
Nothing is more important to me than serving the people of Montana. It’s been my privilege for more than 30 years, defending both our state and nation.
The 2007 research paper from my time at the U.S. Army War College has become a distraction from the debate you expect and deserve. I am ending my campaign so that I can focus on fulfilling the responsibility entrusted to me as your U.S. Senator. You deserve someone who will always fight for Montana, and I will.
I am proud that with your support, we held our opponent accountable for his hurtful record to privatize Medicare, to deny women the freedom to make their own health decisions and to sell off our public lands. I know how important it is to continue the fight for these Montana values, and it is time for us all to return to the real issues of this election.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have met countless people in the course of this campaign who have offered support — who know what’s at stake for the future of our great nation. That is why public service is so important to me, and why I look forward to continuing to fight for Montana in the U.S. Senate.
Walsh had already canceled several event appearances this week, including a fundraiser in Jackson Hole. The Montana Democratic Party now has until Aug. 20 to decide who it will recommend to the Montana Secretary of State as Walsh's replacement on the November ballot. Several names have come up in media stories in recent weeks including former NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan, an Anaconda native, and former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who declined to run for the seat last year. MDP Chair Jim Larson issued the following statement in response to Walsh's exit from the race:
Senator Walsh's life has been and continues to be service to our nation and all Montanans. From 33 years in the National Guard, to serving as Lt. Governor to his time in the U.S. Senate, John Walsh has sacrificed significantly for our country and is to be commended.
The Montana Democratic Party looks forward to an open and transparent opportunity for Democrats to come together to decide our new nominee. As we move forward in this race, we must remember this election is not about one person; it’s about Montana. This election is about ensuring our public lands aren’t sold off to the highest bidder, women are free to make their own health care decisions, every Montanan has the opportunity to succeed, and our kids and grandkids are not denied quality education.
Sen. Jon Tester also released a statement this afternoon saying, "I respect Senator Walsh's decision to step out of the race, I know it was a difficult one." Tester went on to praise Walsh's military career, stating "we all owe him thanks for his service."
UPDATE: Late this afternoon, Brian Schweitzer stated via Twitter and Facebook that he will not enter the race.
I respectfully decline to seek the Senate nomination. Many thanks to John Walsh & I'll support whoever the next nominee turns out to be.
— Brian Schweitzer (@brianschweitzer) August 7, 2014