Steve Bullock, Governor of Montana, speaks at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., on Monday, May 1, 2017.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who has cast himself as a bipartisan leader, announced Tuesday he is entering the crowded field of Democrats for the 2020 presidential race, vowing to “take our democracy back.”
“I believe in an America where every child has a fair shot to do better than their parents. But we all know that kind of opportunity no longer exists for most people; for far too many, it never has,” Bullock said in his announcement. “We need to defeat Donald Trump in 2020 and defeat the corrupt system that lets campaign money drown out the people’s voice, so we can finally make good on the promise of a fair shot for everyone.”
Bullock joins a field of more than 20 Democrats vying for the right to face Trump in next year’s election. Former Vice President Joe Biden has opened large leads in a variety of polls of Democratic voters, while Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris make up the next tier.
While looking to run as a centrist, the two-term governor has worked on several progressive issues, including expanded health care and early childhood education to wage equality and campaign finance reform. He also has courted rural Americans and discussed the unique challenges they face and could broaden Democrats appeal in red states.
Bullock, 53, has already been to Iowa several times since last summer, and his Big Sky Values PAC has been adding staff in the key state. He’s also traveled to New Hampshire in the past year.
The Montana Democrat is chairman of the National Governors Association, a bipartisan group. Other governors have already entered the field of Democrats seeking the 2020 nomination, including Washington’s Jay Inslee and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Blue wins in a red state
Bullock won a second term as governor in 2016 by about 4 percentage points in a Republican state where Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by more than 20 points. He took office as governor in 2013 and had served one term as state attorney general, from 2009 to 2013.
The Democratic governor received bipartisan support in the Republican-controlled state legislature over the years for some of his proposals, including expanding Medicaid to thousands of residents in 2016. He spent several years pushing state lawmakers for government-funded preschool education and won funding for a pilot program in 2017.
Also, Bullock pushed for more money for higher education, including to help students returning for retraining after losing jobs. He also advocates a living wage for teachers.
Early in his first term, the governor launched a special task force to promote wage fairness. A bill introduced on behalf of the task force to address gender wage inequity made it out of committee in the 2019 legislative session, representing the first time this has happened during his governorship.
Bullock has spoken frequently about the need for campaign finance reform and the danger of dark money flooding elections. An executive order he signed last June requires state contractors to report dark money spending in elections.
In 2015, he put his signature on the Montana Disclosure Act, legislation that received bipartisan support from state lawmakers. The anti-dark-money legislation requires the disclosure of political committees’ donors and spending on state-level elections. In February, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Montana law.
Bullock has a connection to a landmark court case involving dark money. Back in 2010, he was Montana’s top law enforcement officer when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling on Citizens United, a campaign finance case. He wrote the brief to uphold the state’s longstanding citizen initiative banning corporate campaigning.
Bullock last summer announced support for a ban on semiautomatic weapons to reduce gun violence in America — a shift of his position and one seen as a signal of his presidential ambitions. He made the announcement on CNN, but later clarified his gun control position by saying he didn’t support collecting weapons from hunters or law-abiding owners.
“Frankly, I’m just tired of lowering the flags for school mass shootings and I’m tired of gun violence being part of our collective discussion for a week or two after another mass school shooting and then we move on,” he told reporters in explaining his support of a ban.