MTN News: Bullock to announce candidacy for president in two weeks

Gov. Steve Bullock

(KPAX) – Montana Gov. Steve Bullock will announce his bid for the presidency in two weeks, MTN News has learned — adding to the 20 Democrats already running for the 2020 nomination to challenge President Trump.

Bullock, a two-term governor who can’t run for re-election in 2020 because of term limits, isn’t talking publicly yet about his specific plans.

But sources told MTN News the Democratic governor plans to officially unveil his candidacy soon, likely the week of May 13.

Bullock’s announcement won’t be a big surprise. He formed a political action committee, Big Sky Values PAC, in mid-2017, to fund political travels and activity around the country, and he’s hired political veterans as staffers for the PAC, including an organizing director in Iowa.

He also has a communications person in Iowa, which will hold the nation’s first presidential nominating contest in 2020: the Iowa caucuses, on Feb. 3.

Galia Slayen, spokeswoman for Big Sky Values PAC, told MTN News Wednesday that the PAC has “enabled Governor Bullock to highlight his clear and optimistic vision for the future, and help candidates who share his view.”

Through the end of March, the Big Sky Values PAC has raised nearly $1.8 million since July 17, including $416,000 during the first three months of this year. The PAC also has spent about $1.55 million since it began, leaving $229,000 in its account through March 31.

Some of its spending includes donations to the campaigns of other Democratic candidates.

Slayen, who has worked on Democratic candidate campaigns in Illinois, Iowa and Kentucky, joined the PAC this week.

She said Bullock is “a progressive champion and tested leader, winning his last re-election by four points in the same year Trump won the state by 20 points.”

Bullock would be joining a field of 20 already-declared Democratic candidates — as of Wednesday — including two other governors or former governors (Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper).

Bullock, 53, has been wooed by Washington, D.C., Democrats to run for the U.S. Senate in 2020 against Republican Sen. Steve Daines, but has said or indicated that he’s not interested in that race.

David Parker, a political science professor at Montana State University, told MTN News Wednesday that Bullock is certainly a long-shot candidate in the presidential race, but that he does have a compelling story to tell.

“He has all of these successes with an overwhelmingly Republican legislature,” Parker said. “And, from my perspective, the most compelling of all is that he’s won statewide and attracted a chunk of rural voters.”

Parker said that Iowa is the type of state where Bullock can “make a splash,” because of its mostly rural nature and its style of “retail politics,” similar to Montana.

“I think there is a lane for him — if he can raise the money,” Parker added.

At events around the country, Bullock has been touting his success in getting major initiatives passed by a Republican-controlled Legislature, saying he can work with both sides of the political aisle and bring that cooperative approach to Washington, D.C.

The 2019 Montana Legislature wrapped up its regular session last week, with a coalition of minority Democrats and some Republicans passing several big items supported by Bullock, such as a continuation of Montana’s $700 million-a-year Medicaid expansion program and an $80 million infrastructure bonding bill.