Sen. John Walsh (D-Montana), in office for less than half a year, says he’s dropping out of the race to hold onto his seat amid a plagiarism scandal.
“I am ending my campaign so that I can focus on fulfilling the responsibility entrusted to me as your U.S. senator,” Walsh said in a statement to supporters, the Helena Independent Record reported. “You deserve someone who will always fight for Montana, and I will.”
Last month, the New York Times reported that Walsh, 53, plagiarized much of a 2007 U.S. Army College research paper. In response, editorial boards of the state’s largest papers had called for Walsh to drop out.
Walsh, the only Iraq combat veteran in the Senate, was in a tight race for re-election against Republican Rep. Steve Daines. He’d been trailing Daines in the polls, but was narrowing the gap before the Times story broke.
Walsh was appointed to the Senate in February by Gov. Steve Bullock, after Max Baucus vacated the seat to become U.S. ambassador to China. In June, he won a primary for the Democratic nomination for this fall.
Democrats will now have to scramble to hold a convention to nominate a replacement candidate before August 20, further damaging their chances of holding onto the seat. Montana is one of several races that could decide control of the U.S. Senate next year.
Popular Democratic former governor Brian Schweitzer has already declined to throw his hat in the ring.
“I believe in citizen government – where citizens step up to serve then step aside for others to do the same. My deepest thanks to John Walsh for his continued service. I look forward to supporting whoever the next nominee turns out to be,” he said in a statement.