Champ Edmunds Hints at Primary Challenge to Daines

Aaron Flint posted on October 21, 2013 09:13 :: 1787 Views

State Rep. Champ Edmunds (R-Missoula) is hinting that he will challenge Congressman Steve Daines (R-MT) in a potential 2014 primary campaign for the US Senate in Montana.  While Edmunds didn’t say how he would have voted during the government shutdown, it appears in his prepared statement that he is opposed to the deal that eventually ended the government shutdown on the eve of the debt ceiling deadline.  

From Champ Edmunds prepared statement released Sunday:

“When I announced my candidacy to represent Montana in the United States Senate, I said that should Congressman Daines at some point seek this same seat, then I would step aside and become a candidate for Montana’s lone congressional seat.”

“Montanans deserve a Senator who will vote to protect their freedom, and not expand government.”

So far, it appears that only the out of state Tea Party groups are attacking Daines, who was one of less than 50 members of the US House to initially call for defunding Obamacare.  I heard from Henry Kriegel, a Bozeman Tea Party leader, on our statewide radio talk show Friday who thanked Daines for his effort to defund Obamacare.

As for the national tea party groups, Montana Public Radio has this:

Within hours of the vote to end the 16-day government shutdown, tweeted a link to the votes of the 27 Republican Senators and 87 Republican House members who voted for that legislation.

The group calls those lawmakers the 2014 RINO Hunting List.

While it has been mostly national “Tea Party” groups who have voiced opposition to Daines’ vote to end the shutdown, The Western Word notes that Ed Berry, a conservative blogger in the Flathead Valley,is criticizing Daines for the vote:

Daines has not indicated if he will run for re-election for Montana’s At-Large U.S. House seat that he currently holds, or if he will run for the open U.S. Senate seat. No matter which race he enters, with his vote to open the government (and for Obamacare) he created a big problem for himself. Daines is a rookie and he’s only held elective office since January, so some might forgive him for straying to the middle, but not the Tea Party.

The biggest concern for Daines as a U.S. Senate candidate should be if a strong Libertarian candidate enters the Senate race. Libertarians took valuable votes from Conrad Burns in 2006 and Denny Rehberg in 2012, which helped Democrat Jon Tester defeat them.

Some conservatives may have to vote for a Libertarian once again just to feel satisfied and to make a point.

As for Daines, here’s what he told the AP:  (You can also click here to listen to Daines on Friday’s Voices of Montana where we discussed the end of the government shutdown)

U.S. Rep. Steve Daines said his vote to raise the debt ceiling was about ending the government shutdown, and says he still hopes to repeal the health care overhaul.

The Montana lawmaker joined some other Republicans and all Democrats in voting for the deal on Wednesday. The measure funds the government through early next year.
The potential U.S. Senate candidate told Montana Public Radio on Thursday that the vote shows he can split with the Republican majority.

In the meantime, the Cook Political Report still considers Daines’ seat to hold as “likely Republican” in 2014, as reported by The Atlantic Wire.  

As I noted earlier, Montana State University Political Science Professor David Parker weighs in with this:

I recently wrote in a magazine piece that the Democrats should, just by looking at historical trends, have a bad year in the midterm elections (see the piece here). One take away message from the two week plus government shut down is that the Republican Party was hurt tremendously in the eyes of the public.

Democrats might gloat over all of this, but I agree with other assessments that the voting public is not only notoriously fickle, they are quite forgetful. Republicans can certainly hope with some degree of confidence that by the midterms come along in November, the debt crisis will be a distant memory in the minds of voters.

Daines—like other House members eyeing Senate campaigns—joined 86 other House Republicans for the compromise plan developed in the Senate that reopened government. Daines has also attempted on other occasions to strike a more moderate pose, such as supporting the Violence against Women Act. Daines is carefully trying to keep the Tea Party support with him while also appearing to more centrist elements within the party. It was likely these more centrist or moderate elements that abandoned Rehberg for Tester in 2012—likely costing him the election.

Is the GOP in a pinch following the shutdown?  Not necessarily, says the AP:

Democrats who gloat over Republicans’ bad week in Congress might pause to recall that conservatives still own major victories from past budget showdowns. And these wins may again thwart Democrats’ hopes of changing tax-and-spend policies in two-party talks beginning anew in the Capitol.

Chief among them is Republicans’ unified stand against tax increases, even in the name of deficit reduction.

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