Burns Concedes Montana Race to Democrat

The Associated Press
Thursday, November 9, 2006; 11:37 PM

HELENA, Mont. -- U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns conceded defeat to Jon Tester on Thursday, acknowledging that a tight election had gone to the Democrats' favor, Burns' campaign told The Associated Press.

Burns, a three-term senator whose campaign was troubled by verbal gaffes and voter discontent, congratulated Tester, a farmer and state legislator.

"I stand ready to help as Montana transitions to a new United States Senator," Burns said in a statement provided to the AP. "We fought the good fight and we came up just a bit short. We've had a good 18 years and I am proud of my record."

Burns, 71, did not plan any public appearances Thursday, his campaign said.

He also didn't say what he plans to do now, though he indicated he was looking forward to taking some time off. "I hope there is still a good-sized buck out there, because I am going hunting," he said.

Burns called Tester and conceded in a friendly and cordial conversation at about 11 a.m, said Tester spokesman Matt McKenna.

"This was a hard fought campaign and I think that Montana is glad it is in their rear view mirror and Jon tester is ready to move forward," McKenna said.

Tester, who was busy with chores Thursday, picking up a barrel of oil in Great Falls on the way to his grain farm in Big Sandy, ran as an outsider to the Washington culture _ the same theme Burns had used nearly two decades earlier.

"It is absolutely, critically important that we change the direction of the country," Tester, 50, said Wednesday after declaring victory by a thin margin of about 3,400 votes.

Tester said he wanted to empower the middle class, working families, small businesses and family farms and ranches _ "the people who have made this country so great."

"It really is time to put politics aside," he said. "We've got many, many issues that are facing this great state and this country, both in foreign policy and domestic policy. We've talked about them for the last 18 months. Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and get some things done."

Tester's win _ and fellow Democrat Jim Webb's close victory in Virginia _ gave the Democrats the 51 Senate seats they need to control the chamber.

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