State Sen. Mike Taylor, a Republican who portrays Teddy Roosevelt in theatrical productions, says he’s considering a run against U.S. Sen. Max Baucus. Taylor, 59, hails from Proctor and represents Lake County in the Legislature. He’s served in the Senate since 1997, and looks amazingly like the nation’s 26th president with his bushy mustache, round glasses and a tussled crop of hair. Taylor confirmed last week that he may enter the race but doesn’t expect to make a decision for awhile. Baucus, a Democrat, has been in Congress since 1974. He’s expected to vie for a fifth term in the U.S. Senate next year.
“I’m not in a position at this point to say yes or no,” Taylor says. “Sen. Baucus is a formidable opponent. It’s a monumental decision for anyone to make. That doesn’t mean that when the Legislature is over, we won’t take a look at that endeavor.”
Taylor, chairman of the Senate Business and Labor Committee, is largely seen as a moderate, but as one Helena lobbyist puts it, “He’s all over the board.”
“He’s a wheeler-dealer,” says another lobbyist, who also asked to remain anonymous.
Born in Lewistown, Taylor was raised in a family that mixed agriculture with hair-styling. Taylor started out as a barber, then built up a national chain of salons, beauty schools, supply stores and manufacturing firms. He’s also raised lots of sheep.
In the Senate, Taylor also serves on the natural resources, rules, and energy and telecommunications committees. He’ll clearly span the political spectrum if the winds are right. For example, Taylor was the swing vote when the natural resources committee recently considered a bill that would allow the Legislature to define the constitutional guarantee of a “clean and healthful environment” for Montana citizens. While his vote killed that bill, last week he championed a measure that strips out major protections under the Montana Environmental Policy Act.
Nonetheless, Taylor says Roosevelt, a noted conservationist, is his mentor.
“He didn’t get up on Mount Rushmore because they needed another face,” Taylor says. “That’s part of the energy and drive that I have.” Taylor says he knows that taking on Baucus means raising lots of money and running a tough campaign.
“This is a very high mountain, a very tough one, and Sen. Baucus is at the top,” he explains. “Max has a wonderful machine. He’s got good people surrounding him.”
So far, Judith Gap rancher Jim Peterson, former head of the Montana Stockgrowers Association, is the only other Republican expressing interest in the race.