HELENA — Democrat John Mues, a U.S. Navy veteran and former oil-company engineer and high school teacher from Loma, entered Montana’s 2020 U.S. Senate race Thursday — but says a fatal accident linked to his campaign last month almost made him quit the effort.
Mues, 45, a former Navy scuba diver, had planned an underwater shoot June 17 in Canyon Ferry Lake near Helena as part of a potential campaign ad.
But one of the divers, Jesse Hubbell of Somerville, Massachusetts, had equipment problems in the water and became submerged, authorities said. Mues jumped in to try to save him, and nearly drowned himself.
“I tried to save him to the point that I passed out in the water,” he told MTN News in an interview. “My wife dove into the water and pushed me to the boat. Other folks pulled me into the boat. She then took my goggles off after I started to come to, put the goggles on and she dove into the water and tried to save the other gentleman.”
Hubbell’s body was recovered from the lake the next day. Mues said after the accident, he thought he wouldn’t continue the campaign, but that friends and family convinced him otherwise.
“One person put it very succinctly: She said Montana families are no stranger to tragedy, and you need to move forward … “ he told MTN News.
Now, Mues is one of two Democrats vying for the nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican running for his second term. The other Democrat is Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins.
Mues said Daines needs to be defeated because his voting record is not supportive of the average Montanan. He cited Daines’ repeated votes to repeal health-care reforms and his support of the federal 2017 tax cut.
“When Steve Daines voted for a massive tax cut on multinational corporations and America’s wealthiest families, one of the biggest beneficiaries of that was foreign investors,” Mues said. “But what happened? That tax cut blew a multitrillion-dollar hole through the nation’s pocketbook.”
Mues said the nation needs investment in infrastructure, particularly high-speed broadband in rural areas, more clean energy, better pay for teachers and more focus on vocational education.
Daines, through a spokesman, said that he looks forward to having “thoughtful conversations” during the campaign on how to protect good-paying jobs and our “Montana way of life.”
Mues grew up in Deer Lodge, Helena and Wolf Point and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1997. He spent more than seven years in the Navy, including time as a submarine officer.
He also taught high school for two years on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, has a master’s in business administration from the London Business School, and spent several years working as an engineer for Anadarko, an oil-exploration and development firm based in Texas.
-Mike Dennison reporting for MTN News