Champ Edmunds Will Challenge Daines in Montana GOP Senate Primary

Montana State Rep. and U.S. Senate Candidate Champ Edmunds.

Montana state Rep. Champ Edmunds (R-Missoula) announced this morning that he will stay in the U.S. Senate race and give the heavily favored U.S. Rep. Steve Daines a primary challenge.

Speaking with Aaron Flint on this morning’s episode of The Voices of Montana, Edmunds did not directly criticize Daines, but did tout his own “solid conservative voting record” in the state legislature, implying that he was planning to run to the right of Daines in the primary.

“We’re gonna stick around, because I feel like Montanans deserve a conservative choice in this race,” Edmunds said during the interview at the Montana Graingrowers Convention in Great Falls.

Edmunds announced his run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Democrat Max Baucus in February. However, Edmunds had stated, along with several other potential GOP candidates, that he would step aside and run for the U.S. House if Daines chose to run for the Senate.

Daines riled many Montana conservatives in October when he voted to end the 16-day government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling without significant concessions on Obamacare from President Obama or congressional Democrats. Edmunds heavily criticized Daines for his vote and stated that he was considering staying in the Senate race.

“Montanans deserve a conservative candidate. I am a true and proven conservative with a legislative record that clearly reflects where I stand now and in the future,” stated Edmunds in an October 20 press release. “When I announced my candidacy to represent Montana in the United States Senate, I said that should Congressman Daines at some point seek this same seat, I would step aside and become a candidate for Montana’s lone congressional seat. As I listen to folks react to what transpired in Washington, D.C., I am forced to rethink my previous offer.”

Edmunds remains at a significant financial disadvantage in the race. So far, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, Edmunds has raised just $17,868 during the campaign. Daines, on the other hand, has already raised over $1.2 million.

Recent polling shows that Edmunds has some reason for optimism, however. While Daines remains the heavy favorite, recent polling data from Public Policy Polling shows that Edmunds would beat both Democratic candidates — former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger or current Lt. Gov. John Walsh — if he faced them in the general election.