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Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, running for president, says he can win in Trump country

By
Darryl Coote
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock eyes the presidency on a record of passing bipartisan legislation in a Republican-majority statehouse. Photo courtesy of Montana Gov. Steve Bullock/Twitter
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock eyes the presidency on a record of passing bipartisan legislation in a Republican-majority statehouse. Photo courtesy of Montana Gov. Steve Bullock/Twitter

June 25 (UPI) -- Montana Gov. Steve Bullock says he has something no other Democrat who has thrown their name into the hat for the party's nomination has -- he's won in Trump country.

The Missoula native announced in a video May 14 that he was joining the 21 other Democrats running for president in 2020, saying he will fight corruption and dark money in politics while bridging the gap between the Democratic and Republican parties, which he has done as the head of a red state.

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In the video, he highlighted his fight against money in politics, which has been a constant throughout his legal and political career.

As the state's attorney general, he worked to keep Montana's spending restrictions in place while others shed their laws following Citizens United, which prohibits the government from restricting political contributions by corporations under the First Amendment.

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In 2015, he worked with both Democrats and Republicans to pass the Montana Disclose Act, requiring any group that spends money to influence elections to report where the funds came from and how they were being used.

In 2018, he signed bipartisan legislation making state contractors disclose political contributions.

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Most recently, Montana became the first state to ban foreign spending in its elections.

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If elected president, Bullock has promised to sign an executive order on day one "requiring every company to disclose every dollar they spend or contribute to influence our elections if they want to do business with the largest contractor in the nation -- the federal government," he said on his website.

He calls it the One Big Idea, which is based on the notion that "every American's voice matters" and includes moves such as banning SuperPACs and overturning Citizens United.

"If we can kick the Koch brothers out of Montana, we sure as hell can kick them out of any place in the country," he says in the campaign video, referring to Charles and David Koch, who are known for contributing to political campaigns and policy organizations.

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Bullock, who graduated from Columbia Law School, began working as legal counsel to the secretary of state of Montana and had never thought of becoming president, he said.

He was late to announce his candidacy due to working to pass legislation in an overwhelmingly Republican-controlled statehouse, but that was the reason he decided to run, he said -- because he can work with Republicans and win over voters.

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"I'm the only one in the field that actually won in a Trump state," the 53-year-old said in an interview with The Independent.

In 2016, when President Donald Trump won Montana by 20 points over Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Bullock won re-election as the state's governor by 4 percent.

This, he said, offers him something the other candidates do not have.

"I bring a perspective outside of Washington, D.C., which I think helps," he said. "Because, in time, D.C. has become a place where talking has become the substitute for actually getting things done. And, as a governor, I don't have that luxury."

He said he looks for common ground as a way to bring Republicans and Democrats together to create bipartisan agreements, such as the Disclose Act.

It is going to take someone who can convince midwestern voters that the Democratic Party is fighting for them, he said.

"If we don't win back some of the places we lost in 2016, it is going to be a tough sled, don't kid yourself, to think we are going to win in 2020," he said in an interview with CNN. "I have a proven ability to do that."

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He has also evolved on issues such as gun laws. While he once rejected background checks, he now supports them, as well as measures such as limiting magazine sizes.

In an op-ed published in the Great Falls Tribune last year, Bullock said the United States was paralyzed when it comes to gun laws, the same way he felt in 1994 on the day his 11-year-old nephew was shot and killed at school.

"When it comes to confronting gun safety and gun violence, we are as paralyzed a nation as I was that day as an uncle," he wrote. "Despite this paralysis, we know all Americans want to keep our families safe."

The country must take action, he said, as thoughts and prayers are not solutions, "they are excuses."

"As individuals and as a nation, we can no longer be paralyzed," he said.

Bullock is married to Lisa Downs and has three kids. They live in the house he was raised in by his single mother.



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