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Ex-Mont. governor rejects Senate bid; Dems worry about holding seat

By Matt Gouras

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, July 13 2013 10:34 a.m. MDT

In this Sept. 6, 2012, file photo, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

J. Scott Applewhite, File, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

HELENA, Mont. — Popular former Gov. Brian Schweitzer said Saturday morning that he will not run for Montana's open U.S. Senate seat in 2014.

The Democrat told The Associated Press that he doesn't want to leave Montana and go to Washington, D.C.

Schweitzer said he felt compelled to consider the race only because many in his party said they needed him to run. He was considered the best chance Democrats have to hold onto the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Max Baucus next year.

"I love Montana. I want to be here. There are all kinds of people that think I should be in the U.S. Senate," Schweitzer said. "But I never wanted to be in the U.S. Senate. I kicked the tires. I walked to the edge and looked over."

Schweitzer said recent criticism over politically active nonprofits connected to him had no bearing on the decision and said such criticism isn't new.

"This isn't my first rodeo," Schweitzer said.

The former governor was recently elected board chairman of Stillwater Mining Co., Montana's largest publicly trading company and said he is enjoying his life.

The brash, jeans-wearing governor last year told The Associated Press: "I am not goofy enough to be in the House, and I'm not senile enough to be in the Senate."

The 57-year-old Democrat left office in January after eight years in office with high approval ratings, but unable to run again because of term limits. The unconventional governor, who easily won re-election in 2008, always displayed a feel for tapping into Montana's conservative-leaning yet libertarian politics.

In Helena, his heavy-handed style proved adept at largely getting his way with the state budget despite fostering a confrontational and sour relationship with majority Republicans. He often touted the state's surpluses at a time when many others were floundering.

The outspoken governor never missed an opportunity to leave a larger-than-life impression. He once stormed New York's Times Square with a bullhorn handing out Montana-made promotional trinkets from a semi-truck.

But Schweitzer said he is enjoying pursuits other than politics, with a new lake house and a small ranch in the mountains.

"I don't want to leave Montana. This is my home, not Washington D.C. I don't want a job where I have to wear a suit and my dog isn't welcome," he said.

Republicans are hopeful that freshman U.S. Rep. Steve Daines will run for the open seat.

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