To put it bluntly: Who is this guy? We’ve come to know Walsh in recent years as a soldier, a decorated veteran of the Montana National Guard who led troops into combat in Iraq. That service led to then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer appointing him adjutant general in 2008 and Bullock tapping him as a running mate in 2012. Since then the Democrat has mostly been appearing at events on Bullock’s behalf, fulfilling his diplomatic duties as lieutenant governor but offering little hint as to how he may conduct himself as a lawmaker.
Walsh’s Senate campaign has yet to reveal to his political priorities, either. In a video last year announcing his candidacy he spoke in campaign trail generalities, offering to “bring our values to Washington, D.C.” and admitting to being “a boy turned soldier, not really a politician.” Granted, he did recently extend support for a trio of Montana environmental bills, but any detailed stance on national issues beyond “fostering job creation” and “supporting Montana’s working families” remains forthcoming.
Walsh’s political background is so nonexistent that the GOP has struggled for material with which to attack. Walsh became the butt of a few jokes last summer when word leaked that he had clicked “like” on a Facebook page dedicated to women’s breasts. Republicans blanketed the web with screen grabs; Walsh’s campaign dismissed it as an accident. Breastgate made scattered headlines before slipping from memory.
The real barrage came in late December when a three-year-old investigation of Walsh by the U.S. Army inspector general hit the public. The investigation concluded that, in 2010, Walsh had improperly used his senior position to pressure state military personnel to join the National Guard Association of the United States. Walsh was denied a federal promotion to the rank of general that year, though Schweitzer did go to bat for him.
It remains to be seen whether Walsh’s appointment will be a blessing or a curse for his campaign. Critics decry Bullock’s decision as a back room deal, and Democrats are certainly fretting about losing Baucus’ seat. The flip side is that Montana voters might finally meet the man who has so far eluded introduction: Walsh the politician.