Sen. John Walsh on Thursday ended his campaign for a full term in the Senate amid a plagiarism scandal, leaving Democrats in Montana searching for a new candidate less than three months before the November election.
An Iraq combat veteran appointed to his seat in March, Walsh called it quits after a firestorm of criticism following a New York Times report that he lifted more than a quarter of his master's thesis at the United States Army War College.
He had cancelled campaign events this week after two local newspapers called for his withdrawal from the race.
While Democrats had hoped to hold onto the seat long occupied by Sen. Max Baucus, the Republican nominee, Rep. Steve Daines, is now heavily expected to win in November. Baucus left earlier this year to become U.S. ambassador to China.
Walsh told supporters Thursday he was ending his bid "so I can focus on fulfilling the responsibility entrusted to me as your U.S. senator," according to a statement first reported by the Billings Gazette.
“You deserve someone who will always fight for Montana, and I will.
“I am proud that with your support, we held our opponent (Daines) 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,” Walsh said in the statement. “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.”
Montana Democrats have until Aug. 20 to select a replacement for Walsh on the ballot. They have few good options unless former Gov. Brian Schweitzer changes his mind after passing on the race last year.
The state party chairman, Jim Larson, praised Walsh's military service in a statement and said he "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."
Here is Walsh's full statement to his supporters: