Bullock Launches Iowa Campaign, Promoting Progressive Wins In A Red State

May 16, 2019

In his first stop in Iowa to campaign for the Democratic nomination for president, two-term Montana governor Steve Bullock highlighted bipartisan achievements that he said set him up to connect with swing-state voters.

At a rally on the production floor of a Des Moines brewery, Bullock touted his record as governor, including laws expanding Medicaid and requiring campaign spending disclosures. Bullock won reelection in 2016 even as Donald Trump won Montana in the presidential vote. Bullock said that shows he can take progressive positions and still connect with moderate and conservative voters.

“I don’t have the luxury of just going to pockets of blue,” Bullock said. “I actually have to go out and talk to people and engage all across this 147,000 square mile state.”

Bullock picked up an endorsement from Iowa's attorney general, Tom Miller. It’s the first endorsement made by a statewide elected official. At the rally, Miller said Bullock is not on the political left or right of the Democratic party. “He’s a progressive. He’s a liberal. He’s right in the middle of our party,” he said.

Iowa attorney general Tom Miller said he endorsed Steve Bullock, in part, for his ability to connect with voters with different political beliefs. "In my view, Steve connects with people as well as anybody I've seen in all the caucuses with the exception of Barack (Obama) and Bill Clinton."
Credit Grant Gerlock / IPR

In his speech, Bullock said he wants to limit the influence of money in politics. As the state’s attorney general, he defended Montana’s campaign finance law in the U.S. Supreme Court after it was called into question by the 2010 Citizens United decision.

Montana’s law was overturned but later, as governor, Bullock signed a law requiring political nonprofits, or so-called dark-money groups, to disclose spending on state races. He said similar actions could be taken at the national level.

“We don’t have to wait just to get a constitutional amendment or a new Supreme Court, though we need them both,” Bullock said. “If we can kick the Koch brothers out of Montana, we can sure as hell kick 'em out of everyplace in this country.”

Asked how he would address climate change, Bullock said the United States should take a leading role globally when it comes to cutting carbon emissions. He said he’s seen the impacts of a warming climate up close in Montana.

“Two years ago I had 1.3 million acres burn,” Bullock said referring to widespread wildfires in the mountain west. “Come to Glacier Park soon because the glaciers will be gone. Our farmers’ crop seasons are changing. We have to address climate change.” He said U.S. House Democrats’ Green New Deal is a good step to elevate the discussion.

Bullock is one of 23 Democrats who are officially running for president. He’s also one of three governors. The others are Washington Governor Jay Inslee and former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper.