National Politics

Who is Democratic presidential candidate Steve Bullock?

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock may not make the first Democratic presidential debates in Miami after the Democratic National Committee chose not to consider a pair of ABC/Washington Post polls as part of its qualifying criteria.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock may not make the first Democratic presidential debates in Miami after the Democratic National Committee chose not to consider a pair of ABC/Washington Post polls as part of its qualifying criteria.

He’s the only one who can claim a major victory in a state President Donald Trump carried in 2016.

He’s Steve Bullock, the governor of Montana and the 21st candidate to join the race for the Democratic nomination for president. He launched his bid May 14th, making him one of the latecomers to a congested field.

“In the same year that Trump won the state by 20 points, Bullock won by 4,” reads his campaign website.

To buttress this claim to fame, Bullock touts his record as a Democratic governor forced to work with a Republican-led legislature. He expanded Medicaid, froze college tuition and passed campaign finance laws that combat the role of hard-to-trace “dark money” in politics.

“Everything else can’t be addressed until we can do that,” he told the Independent Record, the local newspaper based in Montana’s capital, Helena. “When we start to curb the incidence of outside money in campaigns it will make everything easier.”

Bullock’s record reflects a staunch commitment to campaign finance reform. First, as Montana’s attorney general, he battled corporate spending in elections. This was in open defiance to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, a ruling that allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited money on political advertising. Montana, Bullock argued, had a history of political corruption that should make it exempt from the federal ruling, according to NPR.

The Supreme Court rebuffed Montana. After Bullock became governor, the Legislature passed a bipartisan bill that forces disclosure of all donors of any independent group spending money on political ads. This includes nonprofit groups, which in other states don’t have to disclose their donors. The Montana Disclose Act, which has survived a legal challenge, is one of the strictest campaign finance laws in the country. The Montana Free Press called it “flagship anti-dark-money legislation.”

Bullock has touted his ability to work across the aisle, though the Independent Record has reported on the nuances of his relationship with Montana state lawmakers. In the deeply conservative state, a subset of Republicans have formed the “Solutions Caucus,” a group that has found common ground with Bullock.

“But like so many things in a national campaign, the state-level subtleties get lost,” read an Independent Record article. “For the last several legislative sessions, GOP infighting in Montana hamstrung the party and created space for a group of Republicans called the Solutions Caucus to find a better partner in Bullock than members of their own party.”

The governor has said he entered into the race late because he had to stay engaged with the Legislature during the most recent session. He successfully pushed for a Medicaid expansion, which the Billings Gazette reported could bring about $720 million in federal funding to the state. Another bill that passed: A tuition freeze across Montana’s higher-education system to help keep college affordable for residents. The state is paying for the freeze to the tune of $24 million, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

About Steve Bullock

Current or most recent position: Governor of Montana since 2012

Other elected offices: Montana’s attorney general from 2008 to 2012

Occupation: Attorney

Education: Claremont McKenna College, B.A., 1988; Columbia Law School, J.D., 1994

Age: 53

Residence: Helena, Montana

Family: Wife Lisa Bullock, children: Caroline, Alexandria and Cameron

Campaign website: stevebullock.com

Donors: Because he declared in mid-May, campaign finance data is not yet available for Bullock.

Fun fact: When he was a boy, Bullock used to deliver newspapers to the governor’s mansion in Helena.

On the issues: Bullock’s central issue is reforming campaign finance in order to reduce the influence of massive donations from wealthy corporations and individuals. He said he would expand donor disclosure requirements and work toward banning super PACs.

Sources of biographical information: The Steve Bullock Campaign, the Independent Record, Axios, Politifact

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