Democrat Steve Bullock defeated Republican Rick Hill in Montana’s governor race.
Bullock was ahead 49 to 47 percent, with the vast majority of votes counted in the state, when the Associated Press called the race at about 1:30 p.m. Nov. 7.
Bullock, 46, and Hill, 65, each entered the race with strong name recognition and prominent standing within their parties, though at different ends of the spectrum in their political careers.
Hill served as Republican Gov. Marc Racicot’s appointed workers’ compensation board chairman before successfully running for Congress in 1996. He served two terms in the U.S House as Montana’s only representative but chose not to run for a third term. His gubernatorial candidacy marked a political comeback after more than a decade out of the public eye.
With only one term as attorney general under his belt, Bullock was considered a rising star in Montana’s Democratic Party when he announced his candidacy for governor. Bullock defeated Republican Tim Fox in the 2008 attorney general’s race. He had previously lost in the 2000 Democratic attorney general’s primary to Mike McGrath.
Before becoming attorney general, Bullock’s law career included private practice at firms in Helena, Washington D.C. and New York, a stint as adjunct professor at George Washington University School of Law and serving as executive assistant attorney general for Montana.
Hill worked in insurance before entering politics. He managed a surety bond office in Great Falls in the 1970s and was then a partner at Helena’s Montana International Insurance. From 1984-1992, he ran his own insurance business, R.A. Hill & Co.
Throughout the campaign, Hill promised to bring significant changes to Montana’s regulatory environment to increase natural resource development and stimulate job growth. He proposed shifting away from property taxes toward natural resource revenue as a funding source for schools. He has also voiced his support for more school choice, such as charter schools and tax credits for people who donate to private school scholarships.
Bullock touted his record on the five-member state Land Board over the last four years, arguing that Montana can responsibly develop its natural resources while protecting its environment. He says the current Land Board has produced more revenue than any other in state history. He has been critical of Hill’s proposals for schools, saying the Republican wants to “defund, devalue and dismantle public education.”
The two candidates also disagreed sharply on unions. Bullock promised to protect union rights and received endorsements from prominent unions, including the MEA-MFT. Hill supports right-to-work legislation, which critics say would weaken unions, and invited Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker to a campaign event. Walker is known for his efforts to roll back collective bargaining rights for most public employees in his state.
The final stretch run of the race was punctuated by a dispute over a $500,000 donation that Hill accepted during a six-day period in which Montana’s campaign contribution limits were suspended by a judge. After an appeals court reinstated the limits, Bullock argued that keeping the money was illegal. Bullock sued Hill and a state judge ruled that the Republican couldn’t spend any of the disputed money.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.