Democrats quiet, reflective over Walsh plagiarism problem


MISSOULA, Mont. - NBC Montana learned that Sen. John Walsh canceled two campaign events scheduled for this week, but we don't know why. Walsh is under fire for allegedly plagiarizing a research paper for the Army War College.

As the country waits to see what Walsh's next step will be, the names of plausible contenders to replace him are being bantered around in political circles.

The editorial boards of Montana's three largest daily papers called on Walsh to withdraw from the race. Some are tossing around names of possible replacements for the fall election.

We reached out to a number of prominent Democrats around the state.

It isn't comfortable table chat among Democrats, at least until there is word from Walsh himself.

Among people in both parties he is genuinely liked, and they feel bad about his problems. But names are being dropped.

The Montana Cowgirl is a popular blog. Cowgirl mentioned a couple names that have been talked about.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau is one. We left a message at her office, but didn't hear back by news time.

Nancy Keenan is a former State Superintendent of Public Instruction and former president of the National Abortion Rights Action League, Pro Choice America. We left messages with Keenan, but hadn't heard back by news time.

NBC Montana went to the Western Montana Fair and visited people at the Democratic booth. State Senate candidate Diane Sands was working the shift. She agreed to talk. Sands has been a visible Democratic leader in Missoula for years.

"Clearly, I think everyone expects within the next day or two," said Sands, "we will be hearing some announcement from Senator Walsh as to his decision whether he will remove himself from the ballot or not."

Sands said from her campaigning experience door to door she has learned that people think Walsh is a "very nice man, but they're concerned about this current situation."

Sands said there are a number of Democrats whose names are being bantered about besides Keenan and Juneau.

She said she's heard talk of trying to attract former Governor Brian Schweitzer back into office. Schweitzer didn't return our calls.