HELENA, Mont. – Sen. John Walsh remained steadfast Thursday amid allegations he plagiarized a research project required for a master’s degree, winning fresh backing from fellow Democrats in Montana and the governor who appointed him to the Senate earlier this year.
The revelations that Walsh included both conclusions and verbatim passages from the writings of other scholars in his 2007 U.S. Army War College thesis, known as a strategy research project, “will not change Senator Walsh’s commitment,” his campaign said.
Asked if Walsh was considering abandoning his race for election to the Senate against Republican Rep. Steve Daines, campaign spokeswoman Lauren Passalacqua said: “Absolutely not.”
Support for Walsh also arrived from Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who said he had no knowledge of the plagiarism when he appointed the former head of the Montana National Guard and its lieutenant governor to the Senate in February.
“Senator Walsh has a long history of fighting for Montanans, both at home and in combat,” Bullock said. “He deserves respect for his courage on our behalf.”
Walsh, the only senator who served in the Iraq war, is seeking election in a race that top Democratic strategists – prior to the plagiarism revelations – saw as an uphill battle and unlikely to provide one of the seats the party needs to hold onto its majority.
There is only a short time for Walsh, Bullock and their Democratic colleagues to decide whether the allegations are too toxic for Walsh to survive. A candidate has until Aug. 11 to withdraw from this year’s contest, and the state party has until Aug. 20 to name a replacement candidate, Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch said Thursday.
If Walsh decides to drop out after the ballots are certified on Aug. 21, a new candidate can’t be appointed and Walsh’s name will stay on the ballot, she said.
But pulling out of the race wasn’t a consideration Thursday. Montana Democratic Party spokesman Bryan Watt said Walsh “took responsibility” for his mistakes and the party looks forward “to standing and fighting with him.”
Bullock appointed Walsh in February when Democratic Sen. Max Baucus resigned to become ambassador to China. Republicans and some Democrats blasted the appointment, saying it was made without transparency and was designed to give Walsh a boost in the midterm elections.
Bullock spokesman Kevin O’Brien said the governor’s 2012 campaign reviewed Walsh’s public statements, records and spoke with individuals who served with Walsh before asking him to join the ticket.
“This didn’t come up,” O’Brien said.