And Then There Were 22: Bullock of Montana Joins 2020 Race

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock at the Capitol in Helena, Mont., on July 16, 2018. (Thom Bridge/Independent Record via AP, File)

(CN) – Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has thrown his hat into the ring for the 2020 presidential race, playing up his leadership of a red state to join a crowded field of Democrats looking to challenge President Donald Trump.

Bullock, 53, announced his candidacy Tuesday with a focus on campaign finance. He highlighted his time as Montana’s attorney general, and in an announcement video said he wants to go after “dark money” donors in politics. 

“If we can kick the Koch Brothers out of Montana, we sure as hell can kick them out of every place in the country,” Bullock says, referring to the wealthy owners of Koch Industries who donate millions primarily to Republican candidates.

“We need to defeat Trump in 2020 and defeat the corrupt system that lets campaign money drown out the people’s voice,” he adds.

While Montana’s attorney general, Bullock fought to keep his state’s election laws in place following the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which struck down provisions of federal law that prohibited corporations, nonprofits and unions from paying for or contributing to “electioneering communications.” The high court nixed Bullock’s efforts as contrary to Citizens United in 2012.

Bullock was first elected as governor in 2012, and was re-elected in 2016 by 4 points even though Trump overwhelmingly carried the state. Joining the run for the White House with 21 other Democratic candidates like Kamala Harris, Joe Biden Bernie Sanders, Bullock emphasizes his ability to lead from the middle in a red state.

“As a Democratic governor of a state that Trump won by 20 points, I don’t have the luxury of just talking to people who agree with me,” Bullock says in his announcement video. “I go all across our state’s 147,000 square miles and look for common ground to get things done.”

Bullock has supported an assault weapons ban, expanding Medicaid and same-sex marriage. As governor, he’s dealt with devastating wildfires across the Treasure State and sought federal funding to retrain coal miners given the decline of the coal industry.

Early indications of a Bullock run were telegraphed last year when he visited the Iowa State Fair, a popular stumping ground for candidates as the first state to caucus. He began staffing his political action committee last month.

This past February, Bullock wrote a public apology to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio following sexual harassment by a former Bullock staffer who went to work for de Blasio’s office. Bullock said he should have warned de Blasio about the staffer – whom Bullock had let go after similar accusations were made – and vowed to do better.

“Four years ago I fell short in my role preventing sexual harassment. I’m sorry, and I’m committed to doing better,” Bullock wrote in a blog post.

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