by Ben Raker
As of this morning, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.,has joined an increasingly long list of senators that will not seek reelection in 2014.
Like fellow retiring Dems Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Baucus is a Democrat from a state that went to Romney in 2012, by almost 14 points. Still, there are several circumstances specific to Mr. Baucus that left many confused by his Tuesday morning announcement. Of all the retiring Democrats, Baucus has served the longest in the Senate (Carl Levin, D-Mich., has served equally long, 34 years), yet he is the second youngest Democratic senator to announce his retirement (Johnson is five years younger, at the spry age of 65). In other jobs, 34 years of service might be an indicator that it's time to leave, but in Congress seniority is a big deal, and Baucus had managed to wrangle himself the chairmanship of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. Baucus had also given early indications that he would be running, and had raised $5 million for that purpose. Furthermore, just this week, Baucus joined 3 other Democrats in voting against the Manchin-Toomey amendment to the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act which would have expanded background checks, a move some saw as an attempt to curry favor with Montanans (a state with a high percentage of gun owners and manufacturers) ahead of the 2014 election.
According to Baucus, he wants to “focus the next year and a half on serving Montana unconstrained by the demands of a campaign.” Some have speculated that his decision might involve former Gov. Brian Schwietzer, who's popularity in the state might make him a better candidate to keep the seat blue.
Baucus, a fifth generation Montanan, was born in 1941 outside of the capitol city of Helena. He received a bachelor's in economics from Stanford University in 1964 and graduated from Stanford Law School in 1967. He began work as an attorney at his own firm in 1971 and was the Executive Director and Committee Coordinator of Montana's Constitutional convention in 1972, where he helped produce what he refers to as “one of the most well-balanced state constitutions in the Nation.”
The following year, in 1973, he successfully ran for a seat in the Montana State House of Representatives, and won his first federal office the very next year – becoming Montana's at-large congressman. He served in the house for 4 years before getting elected senator in 1978 where he has served for the past 34 years.
In addition to being chair of the Finance committee, he also serves on numerous other committees, including the Agriculture committee, and the Homeland Security committee. He's a co-chair of the Senate Beef Caucus and a member of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus.
Aside from coming home to Big Sky Country and spending time with his family, Baucus has not made any indications of his future plans.
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