Rep. Champ Edmunds, R-Missoula, officially confirmed today probably the worst kept secret in the 2014 electoral cycle so far: He's challenging incumbent U.S. Senator Max Baucus. Edmunds made the announcement before a crowd of about 30 this afternoon at Bitterroot Motors, joking that after 40 years, it's time to welcome Baucus home.
"Though my face isn't perfect, it'll be a new face in Washington," said Edmunds, who's been afflicted with facial palsy since birth.
The announcement didn't come as much of a surprise. Edmunds has had an active campaign donation website for weeks. Earlier this month, he sent out an email criticizing the GOP establishment and declaring himself "an authentic conservative." The email went on to say that Edmunds "would like to be your next U.S. Senator."
Edmunds told the Indy today he'd been mulling a bid against Baucus for years, but finally got serious about it last June. He delayed any real legwork until he completed his 2012 re-election campaign, he said, and timed the announcement for the first day of the Montana Legislature's transmittal break. As for why he chose Bitterroot Motors, the 10-year Navy Submarine Corps veteran explained the dealership's owner, Kathy Ogren, gave him his first job when he moved to Missoula in his early 30s.
Edmunds currently sits on the House Appropriations Committee, an appointment he said qualifies him to tackle balancing the federal budget. He also told the collection of GOP leaders and fellow lawmakers that he intends to rein-in pork barrel spending—a cause that failed miserably in the U.S. Senate in late 2010.
"I want to make the process in Washington, D.C. look more like the process in Montana," Edmunds said.
Edmunds already faces a tough challenge in the 2014 Republican primary; he'll be running against former state senator and 2012 Republican gubernatorial candidate Corey Stapleton. Public Policy Polling took both senate hopefuls into account last week in its latest 2014 projections. The poll showed Baucus trouncing both.
Edmunds has been the subject of widespread criticism on the left in the 2011 and 2013 legislative sessions. He even has his own tag over at the Montana Cowgirl blog. Edmunds has led the charge against same-day voter registration, and introduced House Bill 197 this session, which would expand the scope of alcohol and drug testing to include all state employees.