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A Guy Named Steve Is the 22nd Democrat Running for President

The fly-fishing red-state governor opened his campaign launch video with a shot of a big hill.

by Alex Lubben
May 14 2019, 3:22pm

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There’s another Democrat running for president. He’s the 22nd candidate to announce his campaign. You’ve probably never heard of him.

He’s Steve Bullock, governor of Montana since 2013. He’s a 53-year-old straight white guy whose claim to fame is winning a few elections in a state that Trump won handily in 2016 and that has a population of just over 1 million. In folksy, Midwestern style, Bullock opened his campaign launch video with a shot of a big hill.

“About a hundred years ago, this was the richest hill on earth,” Bullock says, over images of the Berkeley Pit, a former mine now filled with toxic water that’s among the country’s largest Superfund sites. “The men who owned it were called kings.” Those “kings’” legacy, he says, “is a government that serves campaign money, not the people.”

He hopes to win over voters with his rural-America charm and his track record of having won three elections in Montana, one for attorney general and two for governor. He’s managed to push for liberal policies like expanding Medicaid and protecting public lands in his tiny, deeply red state. His announcement video focuses on his efforts to get big money out of politics, kicking the conservative megadonors Charles and David Koch out of politics, and “taking back our democracy.”

“On the night that Hillary Clinton got 36 percent of the vote in Montana, I won re-election comfortably, running on progressive ideas and against an extremely wealthy Republican opponent,” he said in a 2017 opinion piece for the New York Times. He wants Democrats to do better about reaching out to rural voters. “To use a local analogy, Democrats should try casting the fly line a little farther out into the river,” he wrote.

“To use a local analogy, Democrats should try casting the fly line a little farther out into the river"

But this fly-fishing governor is entering the race pretty late. The first Democrat to announce his candidacy for the now-crowded 2020 primary was Rep. John Delany, another relatively low-profile contender who tossed his hat in July of 2017. Since then, Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, along with former Vice President Joe Biden and more than a dozen other candidates have launched their campaigns.

Bullock is following them all into a race in which all the candidates may not even fit on a single debate stage. The Democratic Party caps the number of candidates in its debates at 20. Eighteen have qualified for the first debates in June and July. But Bullock opted to wait until the state’s legislature, which convenes only every other year, finished its legislative sessions before getting into the presidential race.

“I am governor, I had a job to do,” Bullock told CNN. Now, he’ll have to hustle to get the 65,000 donors and support in early polls he’ll need to meet the Democratic National Committee’s thresholds to qualify for the primary debates.

And he’ll have to do that while working with the little name recognition he’s got and a miniscule campaign operation. He has four staffers, and he’s planning to bring on eight more before the end of the week, according to CNN. He’s running his tiny campaign out of half of a room in Montana’s capitol.

“Look, to be honest, I never thought I’d be running for president,” Bullock said in his launch video. As of press time, the video had just over 2,000 views on YouTube.

Cover: FILE - This July 16, 2018 file photo shows Montana Gov. Steve Bullock at the Capitol in Helena, Mont. Bullock is making one last attempt at passing a major infrastructure package paid for with cash and bonds. Montana lawmakers on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, took up Bullock's infrastructure proposal in what will be his fourth and final attempt at passing a major public works package. (Thom Bridge/Independent Record via AP)