BUTTE – John Bohlinger is the kind of candidate that we root for in the movies.
He is the type of guy that cares about what happens beyond the boundaries of his prominent nose, not the kind of man that we usually send to Washington.
When he spoke to Butte’s Burros last Wednesday, he was looking for some encouragement to stay in the race for the U.S Senate, he said, and he seemed to get it from the crowd that attended, but the donkey turnout was light.
The Burros is Butte-Silver Bow’s club for Democrats.
Mr. Bohlinger said that even though he’s of retirement age, he’s running for office because he has a “passion for public policy as it relates to the common good.” And that common good, Bohlinger maintains, would be best served if the Democrats maintain their majority in the Senate.
That majority, he believes, is a bulwark against harmful legislation generated by the conservative U.S. House of Representatives.
His prospect of manning that bulwark has been considerably dimmed, he feels, by Gov. Steve Bullock’s choice of Lt. Gov. John Walsh to serve the remainder of the Senate term vacated by Max Baucus. Baucus left the Senate to become the American ambassador to China.
Mr. Bohlinger said that he had hoped that the governor would have picked someone like Pat Williams or Carol Williams.
Pat Williams served for many years in the U.S. House, and his wife, Carol, served in the Montana Senate. She is the first woman to ever serve as majority leader in the Montana Legislature, Wikipedia said.
With the appointment of Walsh, the Senate race is no longer a fair fight, Bohlinger said. “It’s no longer a level playing field. It’s no longer an open seat,” he asserted.
Incumbency gives Walsh a fundraising advantage, Mr. Bohlinger said. He compared that advantage to having a 40-yard head start in the 100-yard dash. “Money matters” in politics, he noted.
The candidate believes, in fact, that money matters too much in American politics.
“Because of the significant role money plays in politics, it is no longer a government by the people, for the people,” Bohlinger said.
The candidate said that, if elected, he planned to stay in the Senate for only one term. He said that without the pressure of raising money for a reelection bid, he could focus completely on his work in the Senate.
That work would include campaign finance reform, the expansion of Social Security, and the raising of the minimum wage, he said. Mr. Bohlinger, a practicing Catholic, also took a pro choice and pro birth control stance.
“We don’t need the church to tell us how many children to have. It’s a personal matter. It’s the same with a woman’s right to choose,” the candidate said.
Mr. Bohlinger added that he was against sequestration, an across-the-board method of budget-cutting that Republican candidate Steve Daines voted for. Mr. Daines is Montana’s lone congressman, and he is the front-running Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.
Mr. Bohlinger said that the 5 percent cut that sequestration entailed wasn’t the way to go. He said that expenses should be challenged item by item.
Continuing to take aim at Mr. Daines, Mr. Bohlinger argued that the congressman was among those responsible for the 17-day government shutdown that cost the American economy $24 billion.
He also attacked Daines for not voting for the farm bill, a bill that contains the food stamp program. “We have a moral imperative to feed the hungry,” Bohlinger said.
Mr Daines, Mr. Bohlinger said, comes across as an “Eagle Scout,” but noted that the congressman is a member of the Tea Party and holds to “the conservative agenda.”
“This is not right for Montana,” Mr. Bohlinger said.
Mr. Bohlinger hails from Billings. There he was a small businessman for 33 years. He spent 12 years in the Montana Legislature where he represented his district as a Republican.
When he was asked about switching parties, he said that he had become a Republican because he felt that they were better money managers, and because it would have been impossible to be elected in his district as a Democrat.
He noted that as the Republican Party moved to the right, progressive Republicans either became independents or Democrats. “I’m a Democrat,” he said.