BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Steve Daines announced Wednesday that he will run for Senate in 2014, giving Montana Republicans a candidate they believe has a strong chance at winning the state's first race for an open Senate seat in decades.
Daines released a video announcing his candidacy shortly before he launched his campaign in Bozeman by blasting the Senate for supporting President Barack Obama and his signature health-care law.
"Obamacare is a failing law that Montanans don't want and the country cannot afford," Daines told a room of supporters. "We can no longer stand a U.S. Senate that stands with President Obama rather than the people of Montana."
The race may help determine which party controls the Senate, with Republicans needing to pick up six seats to recapture the majority.
Many Republicans had pushed Daines, 51, to run for the seat being vacated by Democrat Max Baucus, even though Daines won his first election just a year ago. Other Republicans cleared out of the race for Daines, who already has raised more than $1 million to begin the campaign.
Democrats recruited Lt. Gov. John Walsh to run. The former Montana National Guard commander also has been in office for less than a year.
The Walsh campaign welcomed Daines to the race with criticism over his votes with the House GOP, which has been blamed by many for the federal government shutdown that came with members opposing the new health care law.
"Instead of taking responsibility for his reckless decisions as a Washington politician, he is asking for a job promotion," Walsh campaign manager Michelle Mayorga said.
Daines initially supported the effort by House Republicans to reject any increase in the nation's debt limit. But he later voted to end the shutdown based on reaction from Montana constituents.
Former Republican Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger, 77, also announced his intention to run for Senate as a Democrat.
Daines, a businessman prior to last year's election win, worked overseas for the consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble before returning to his hometown of Bozeman to work in the family construction business, and then at a local technology company.
In 2008, he unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor on a losing gubernatorial candidate's ticket.