Cloud Hangs Over Sen. Walsh's Re-Election Race

Image: Cloud Hangs Over Sen. Walsh's Re-Election Race (Handout/U.S. Congress)

Wednesday, 06 Aug 2014 02:10 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Embattled Sen. John Walsh has canceled public appearances, amid a report he is considering whether to continue his re-election bid in the wake of a plagiarism scandal that has tarnished his reputation.

The Montana Democrat senator pulled out of numerous events this week, including a fundraiser Tuesday night in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

While facing a Monday deadline for candidates to withdraw from the race, Walsh has been having closed-door meetings with his team to decide on his political future, Politico reported, citing people familiar with the matter it didn't identify.

Senate Democratic leaders in Washington and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) are allowing Walsh to make up his own mind, while Democrats in Montana are unsure whether he will throw in the towel, Politico said.

"It’s going to be up to him to figure out what he thinks is best," a Democratic source told Politico.

Asked whether Walsh planned to remain on the ballot, his campaign spokeswoman Lauren Passalacqua told Politico by email that she was "not going to comment on rumors."

While neither confirming or denying that Walsh was planning an exit, a DSCC official pointed to an obscure earlier statement saying that the committee is "100 percent behind Walsh."

The newspapers in two of Montana's biggest cities have urged the beleaguered Walsh to end his Senate campaign, saying the Iraq war veteran has blown the trust of voters.

If Walsh steps down, the Montana Democratic Party has just two weeks to name a replacement candidate.

The plagiarism scandal erupted last month when The New York Times reported that Walsh had taken major portions of a thesis on American Middle East policy from other authors to earn his master’s degree in 2007 at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Now the Army War College is conducting an investigation into the content of his 14-page paper to ascertain whether he had cheated, and may strip him of his degree.

Walsh, a 33-year decorated military veteran, apologized for his dishonesty and blamed it on post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from his service in Iraq, where he survived an IED attack. He was taking anti-depressants as part of his recovery, his campaign said.

Democratic sources told Politico that although Walsh has been reluctant to pull out of the race, party officials in his state fear that the senator’s problems could hurt other candidates, including John Lewis, who has a good chance at taking over the seat vacated by GOP Rep. Steve Daines, who’s running against Walsh for the Senate.

Walsh, a former lieutenant governor, was appointed by Montana’s Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock to the Senate last February when former Sen. Max Baucus became ambassador to China.

A source told Politico that Bullock has "no position" on whether Walsh should pull out of the race.

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