Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., threw in the towel on the Montana Senate race on Thursday after his campaign faltered in recent weeks following a report last month that the senator plagiarized large portions of a research paper in graduate school.
"I am ending my campaign so that I can focus on fulfilling the responsibility entrusted to me as your U.S. senator," Walsh told supporters in a statement, according to the Billings Gazette."You deserve someone who will always fight for Montana, and I will."
Walsh will serve out the remainder of his current Senate term, which expires in January 2015.
At a nominating convention on August 20, approximately 175 delegates, most Montana Democratic party officials, will select Walsh's replacement to appear on the ballot in November. The Democrat named will face off against the Republican nominee, Rep. Steve Daines, and Libertarian candidate Roger Roots.
"I am proud that with your support, we held our opponent (Daines) accountable for his hurtful record to privatize Medicare, to deny women the freedom to make their own health decisions and to sell off our public lands," Walsh said in his statement on Thursday. "I know how important it is to continue the fight for these Montana values, and it is time for us all to return to the real issues of this election."
Walsh was named to the seat in February by Gov. Steve Bullock, D-Mont., after former Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., left the Senate to become U.S. ambassador to China.
Though Walsh was fighting what many considered an uphill battle to keep the seat in Democratic hands, he posted some improvement in public polling before the plagiarism scandal broke.
In July, the New York Times reported that Walsh lifted large passages from other authors for a masters thesis he submitted to the Army War College in 2007. The paper, a discussion of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, included passages that previously appeared verbatim in papers from scholars at Harvard University and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Editorials in two of the state's major newspapers called on Walsh to withdraw from the race in the weeks following the revelation. Speculation about Walsh's potential withdrawal from the campaign mounted this week as his campaign canceled several public events and Walsh took some personal time off the trail.
Walsh has until next Monday to withdraw from the ballot, but it's unclear who Montana Democrats will run in his place. The New York Times cited two anonymous Montana Democrats who say the former head of NARAL Pro-choice America, Nancy Keenan, is being considered because of her "national profile and national network" that could help raise money for the tough battle to hold the seat.