By Ron VandenBoom
Mike Taylor, newly declared Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, told supporters during an announcement swing through Havre Wednesday that Sen. Max Baucus follows a liberal agenda and does not reflect Montana values.
"The senior senator has proven time and time again that he's only interested in Montana values when it comes close to election time," Taylor said.
Taylor told about 15 people in the Atrium that according to Americans for Tax Reform statistics, Baucus has voted for tax increases 93 percent of the time, and that statistics from the National Federation of Independent Businesses indicate he has voted against higher wages and better jobs 67 percent of the time.
Taylor told the crowd he supports Baucus's decision to vote for President Bush's $1.3 trillion tax cut, but adds that Baucus also voted for what he called "the largest tax increase in the history of the United States" under the Clinton administration.
"He's also supported his party's liberal agenda that made it almost impossible for American business people to drill for gas and oil, mine coal, site transmission lines and build oil refineries and energy-producing plants," Taylor said, alluding to the Western states' energy crisis.
Taylor, a rancher and state senator from Proctor, promised to run a fair and honest campaign and told the crowd his word is his bond.
"And when it comes to hard decisions," he said, "people will know where I stand."
Taylor said he supports the 4 for 2 project to widen U.S. Highway 2 to four lanes and believes the North American Free Trade Agreement needs to be reviewed to insure that free trade also means fair trade.
The chairman of the Hill County Republican Central Committee, Brad Lotton, said he thinks Taylor has an excellent chance of beating Baucus.
"People do realize that Senator Baucus is the best Republican we've ever had for six months out of every six years," Lotton said. "They're tired of being fooled and we're ready for a change."
Ray Peck, a former Democratic state representative who also attended the announcement, called Taylor's speech "pretty standard."
"Montana values is an old line that everybody talks about," Peck said.
Peck said Taylor was kind of taking a shot at Baucus for voting with Senate Republicans for the recent $1.3 trillion tax cut bill.
"I think most Montanans approve of Baucus switching on that tax bill," he said. "So I don't think that's a good issue for him."
Peck said he examined Baucus' record during the fight over the tax cut bill and found "he does not have as straight (of a) liberal voting record as Mike Taylor implied and stated here."
"Max is a guy that I think pretty much votes his own mind," Peck said. "He doesn't follow the leader."
"I think Baucus has carried on an independent attitude like Mike Mansfield," he said.
Baucus plans to visit Havre over the Fourth of July holiday, he added.
Taylor is so far the only candidate to annouce for the seat. State Sen. Ken Miller, R-Laurel, said he won't seek the party's nomination, saying he will run for the state Republican Party chairmanship instead.
Nominations will take place during the Republican convention in Bozeman beginning Friday. Elections will be Saturday.
Rep. Cindy Younkin, R-Bozeman, said she still is considering a run for the U.S. Senate next year.
"I'm still thinking about it," said Younkin, who is serving her second term in the state House. "I haven't discussed it with a lot of people. I need to be visiting with some people around the state and get some feedback."
Jim Peterson, former Montana Stockgrowers Association officer who also was considering running for the Senate, said he likely won't.
"Well, I'm looking like I'm not going to be in the race," Peterson said Tuesday. "I guess I haven't ruled it out. At this time, it looks like I'm not going to run."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.