By the time Gov. Steve Bullock sat down with Montana reporters Tuesday morning in his sparse campaign headquarters near downtown Helena, speculation surrounding the two-term Democrat’s plans to run for president had been trailing him since November 2016, when he handily won a second term as governor in a state that tipped in President Donald Trump’s favor by 20 points.
Still, his May 14 announcement had only been official for several hours when he began fielding questions from a familiar press pool still recovering from the 90-day legislative session, the end of which now marks a new beginning in Bullock’s political career as he joins a bloated field of Democrats vying for the party’s nod to take on Trump.
“This isn’t a vanity project for me. I wouldn’t be getting into this if I didn’t have something to offer,” Bullock, 53, said in response to a reporter’s question about the long odds of his bid.
Bullock officially announced his candidacy at 4 a.m. Mountain Standard Time on Tuesday in a video released to coincide with breakfast television programs, becoming the first Montanan to run for the presidency as a major party candidate, but far from the first candidate to announce as nearly 20 contenders have entered the race.
Although Bullock is trailing on their heels, he said he was determined to finish out the 2019 session without the distraction of a presidential bid, though he said he’ll continue to govern the state of Montana from the campaign trail.
“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 states in the video. “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.”
“This is the fight of our time. It’s been the fight of my career. I’m running for President and with your help, we will take our democracy back,” it concludes.
The governor touted his progressive record on Medicaid expansion, education funding, dark money, net neutrality, equal marriage, abortion rights, and conservation as evidence that a Democrat does not have to masquerade as a Republican in Montana to be successful or appeal to voters in what is often billed as a red state, and many of his key measures have come to fruition because he joined forces with moderate Republicans in the state’s GOP-dominated Legislature.
Although few were surprised by his decision to run, some speculation still swirled around a potential run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Steve Daines, though Bullock on Tuesday said he wasn’t interested in working as a legislator and that his talents were better suited for executive office.
He has assembled a team of high-ticket campaign advisers and political operatives as part of his political committee, the Big Sky Values PAC, including Jenn Ridder as campaign manager; Megan Simpson as state director in Iowa; Galia Slayen as communications director; and Jeremy Busch as Iowa press secretary.
Indeed, Bullock is well regarded in Iowa political circles and has the enthusiastic support of Democratic Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.
Bullock said he’s optimistic that he’ll meet polling or fundraising criteria to qualify for the first round of Democratic candidate debates, and national news organizations are already reporting that he’s passed that threshold.
Still, he acknowledged he has a long road ahead of him given his lack of name recognition and the monumental task of distinguishing himself in a crowded field already being dominated by former Vice President Joe Biden.
“This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint,” Bullock said.