BOB ANEZ/Associated Press Writer
HELENA - After more than a year of campaigning, Democrat Brian Schweitzer officially entered the governor's race today with the promise of an administration that will blur partisan political lines in the operation of state government.
In filing for office, Schweitzer turned the spotlight more on his Republican running mate, John Bohlinger, and said his choice for lieutenant governor is an indication of the policy he would have as governor.
''People have talked about building bridges, people have talked about coming to Helena to build bridges to bring the parties together,'' said Schweitzer, standing next to Bohlinger. ''Guess what? We've poured the concrete, we've bolted together the planks, we've put the steel over the top. The bridge is built.''
Until last week, Schweitzer appeared assured of his party's nomination because he was the only announced Democratic candidate. But John Vincent, a Gallatin County commissioner and former legislator from Gallatin Gateway, launched his campaign on Feb. 11.
That brings to six the number of major gubernatorial candidates. Four men are seeking the Republican nomination.
The last independent poll, taken in December, showed Schweitzer running neck-and-neck with Republican Bob Brown, but with comfortable double-digit leads over the other three GOP candidates. Schweitzer also had raised almost $628,000 by the end of December, nearly 2 times more than his nearest competitor.
Schweitzer rattled Montana politics with his selection of Bohlinger, a GOP senator from Billings. It marks the first split-party ticket since the 1972 Montana Constitution required the governor and lieutenant governor candidates to run as a team.
Bohlinger said today he became a Republican years ago because he agrees with the party's respect for individual dignity, efforts to create more jobs and desire to hold government accountable for its spending of tax dollars.
''I'm still a Republican,'' he said. ''Those principles are still very much a part of my heart.''