(CN) – Democratic Montana Governor Steve Bullock announced his candidacy for the Senate on Monday, reversing course after saying he would not challenge incumbent Republican Senator Steve Daines.
Bullock is finishing out his second term as governor and ran a seven-month campaign for the Democratic nomination for president, dropping out of that race in December. Montana is traditionally a Republican state, and President Donald Trump won widely there in 2016. Bullock based his presidential campaign, in part, on the fact he was the only Democratic governor elected in a state that had voted overwhelmingly for Trump.
Montana’s last two governors have been Democrats. Judy Martz, whose term ended in 2005, was the state’s last Republican governor.
Now Bullock, 53, has turned his attention to the U.S. Senate, where Daines is running for his second term. Montana’s other members of Congress are Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat, and Representative Greg Gianforte, a Republican.
Monday marked the final day to register for the election, and Bullock opened his campaign saying he had taken on big money in politics and helped to expand Medicaid to more than 90,000 people in Montana. The former lawyer and Montana attorney general launched his first campaign ad Monday.
“I’ve always fought for the people of Montana,” Bullock said in a statement. “Together, we expanded health care, protected public lands, banned dark money in politics and more. Now I’m taking that fight to the U.S. Senate.”
Montana Republican Party Chairman Don Kaltschmidt, a car dealer from Whitefish, said Bullock entered the U.S. Senate race only after bowing to pressure from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and former President Barack Obama. “While Bullock stands with the radical left in support of a complete government takeover of health care, sanctuary cities, gun bans, and removing President Trump from office, we’re proud that Sen. Daines stands with the people of Montana and works with President Trump to protect our values and defend our way of life,” Kaltschmidt said in a statement.
Daines formerly worked as a vice president for RightNow Technologies, Gianforte’s former company, which was sold to Oracle in 2011 for $1.5 billion in cash and stock.
Bullock had told The Associated Press in an interview in December that he would not run for Senate. “I’ve said before, during and after that I’m not going to be running for Senate,” Bullock said. “I’ve made that clear. That’s just not what I want to do.”
Bullock said this week, however, that after talks with his family and supporters it was time to throw his hat in the ring for U.S. Senate. “After hearing from Montanans and talking to Lisa and our kids, we decided now is no time to be on the sidelines, and that’s why I’m running so we can make Washington work more like Montana,” Bullock said.