By BOB ANEZ/AP Political Writer
HELENA - Just hours after winning their respective primaries in the governor's race, Democrat Brian Schweitzer and Republican Bob Brown unveiled a staple of political races Wednesday and asked each other to promise nice campaigns.
The candidates challenged each other to sign pledges vowing to run clean campaign, although their two proposals differed significantly.
Schweitzer, who has never held elected office, said his proposal would allow a candidate to criticize an opponent's record.
Brown, who spent 26 years as a state legislator, called for prohibiting all criticism of rivals and their records under his pledge.
Brown said he would sign both pledges if Schweitzer agreed to do the same. Schweitzer said he had to review Brown's proposal before deciding.
''I think we can find a happy medium,'' Schweitzer said. ''How difficult can it be? He's from Whitefish and I'm from Whitefish.''
The dueling ''clean campaign pledges'' were presented almost simultaneously.
The Brown campaign distributed its version by e-mail shortly after finding out that Schweitzer planned a Capitol news conference to unveil his.
Pledges to run campaigns free of attacks are commonly offered by candidates, who then criticize opponents for turning them down.
Schweitzer, who invoked the name of Montana icon Mike Mansfield in pitching his pledge, said his proposal is not a campaign gimmick but a response to voters tired of bickering among candidates.
''People are fed up with this stuff,'' he said. ''It's time to have a marketplace of ideas and values.''
The Schweitzer pledge would prohibit the use of spokespeople as ''designated hitters'' to criticize an opponent.
While the document requires candidates' advertising to ''contain descriptions of our positive vision for the future of Montana,'' Schweitzer said that does not ban all criticism.
His pledge also mandates that candidates discourage third parties from attacking an opponent, and to publicly demand such efforts be halted.
The Brown pledge outlaws using advertising to ''criticize, attack, condemn or characterize in any way'' an opponent. It would make the contenders promise to use advertising only to highlight their own views.
''Montanans need something to vote for, not someone to vote against,'' Brown said. ''The voters deserve a positive message.''
Schweitzer said Brown's proposal does not go far enough because it fails to prevent candidate press contacts from acting as surrogates in attacking a rival.
The tactic of offering pledges to run nice campaigns has become commonplace in recent years.
In 1996, Sen. Max Baucus and Republican challenger Denny Rehberg signed a pledge, but that didn't prevent acrimony. By autumn, the candidates were accusing one another of violating the promise and arguing over how to word a letter urging supporters to behave.
In the 2000 U.S. House race, candidates Nancy Keenan and Rehberg argued over the issue.
Such pledges were back again in 2002, when Baucus tried to get his three opponents to sign a campaign promise limiting criticism. They all said no, calling the effort too broad and an attempt to divert attention from the issues.
Earlier this year, Republican secretary of state candidate Brad Johnson asked GOP opponent Todd O'Hair to sign a pledge that included a promise to accept no special interest money. O'Hair declined to sign because it did not limit the use of personal money.