John Mues

John Mues is a candidate running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2020.

A second Democrat has entered Montana’s 2020 U.S. Senate race.

John Mues, an engineer and military veteran from Loma, told the Chronicle Wednesday that he’s running on a platform that emphasizes creating high-paying jobs in the state, investing in education and tackling climate change.

“I don’t like slogans, but I do like real solutions,” he said. “And I know that people at this juncture in the state and county’s history are clamoring for real solutions because we have some huge challenging problem sets out there and if we don’t get on it, they may never be solved.”

Mues joins Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins in seeking the party’s nomination to challenge Republican incumbent Sen. Steve Daines.

Mues’ announcement comes a few weeks after his film producer Jesse Hubbell drowned in Canyon Ferry Lake near Helena while scuba diving with Mues for a campaign video. The Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a call requesting information on the cause of Hubbell’s death.

“It was an absolute terrible tragedy,” Mues said. “... As soon as that happened, I was not inclined to move forward. My whole idea in running was to help people, to improve the lives of Montanans, and here even before we got out of the gate, someone had a terrible accident and passed away.”

However, he said he decided to launch his campaign after receiving support and encouragement from people across Montana.

David Parker, a Montana State University political science professor, said he doesn’t think the incident will affect Mues’ campaign because it appears to be an accident.

Mues has worked as an engineer in the energy sector for 11 years. He previously was a teacher on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and a Navy nuclear submarine officer. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1997.

He’s quick to criticize Daines, who was first elected to the Senate in 2014. Daines has largely aligned himself with President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers.

“Even people who like Donald Trump know that he is an erratic president,” Mues said. “And it is a very bad combination to have an erratic president and a yes man, rubber stamp senator. That results in very bad outcomes for Montana and the country.”

As a senator, Mues said he would create jobs by developing a national infrastructure program, expanding affordable college and vocational programs and cutting taxes for small- and medium-sized businesses while increasing taxes for large corporations.

Mues also wants to find ways to transition to a greener economy by investing in clean energy businesses and jobs.

He said he sees health care as a right and would work to protect the Affordable Care Act.

Collins, the other candidate seeking the Democratic nomination, announced his candidacy in May. He is a Liberian refugee and became Helena’s mayor when he defeated four-term incumbent Jim Smith two years ago.

Like Mues, Collins has a military background, according to his campaign website. He also has worked as a teacher and in child protection for the Montana Department of Health and Human Services.

His campaign platform is similar to Mues, emphasizing issues that include improving health care access, tackling climate change and investing in renewable energy.

“In terms of differentiators between Wilmot and myself, I think it’s ultimately up to the voters of Montana, but in terms of depth of qualifications, in terms of depth of commitment, in terms of depth of being able to communicate solutions to the problems that we face, I think there is a marked difference,” Mues said.

Shortly after announcing his candidacy, Collins allegedly rear-ended another car in Helena and left the crash scene. He pleaded guilty to careless driving and paid an $85 fine, according to KXLH. He also pleaded not guilty to leaving the crash scene. That charge has yet to be resolved.

Parker said Democrats have an opportunity to unseat Daines because incumbents are their most vulnerable in their first reelection. However, he pointed out Daines beat Democrat Amanda Curtis by 18% and 56% of Montanans voted for Trump in 2016, indicating strong voter support for Republicans.

“But because Trump is such an unconventional candidate who is hard to predict, it’s hard to know how he might affect the vulnerability of Republicans up for reelection like Daines,” Parker said.

This story has been updated to correct the year John Mues graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy.

Perrin Stein can be reached at 406-582-2648 or at pstein@dailychronicle.com. Follow her on Twitter @PerrinStein.

Perrin Stein is the county, state and federal government reporter for the Chronicle.

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