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Political Note #279   Steve Bullock US Senate Montana

2020                            General Election

Choose the candidate.  Which presidential candidate denounced a corrupt system dependent on the corrupt distribution of campaign money?  How about Steve Bullock

As Montana’s Attorney General, Steve Bullock attempted to prevent the use of Citizen’s United against Montana’s 1912 law prohibiting corporate contributions to candidates and political parties.  As Montana’s Governor, he angered the state’s right wing.   Right wing Montanans say he fooled Republicans and Democrats alike.  Claiming he is a left wing Democrat, they point to his vetoes of bills to protect their understanding of campus free speech, requirements that aborted fetuses with the capacity to live receive medical care, and prohibitions against cities or state agencies from providing sanctuary to immigrants.

When Steve Bullock ran for president, too late to make a dent after spending time tending to business as Montana’s Governor, he seemed to be one more candidate in the moderate lane.   He was an enormously popular governor in a conservative state.  Did he fool Montanans through some trick?  I don’t think so.   He gained their confidence by listening.  Gabriel Debenedetti, in Politico Magazine, described him as a “charmer” and a practitioner of “genial good governance” and “the art of persuasion.”

Would Steve Bullock have been a stronger presidential candidate if he ran in  the left lane, if he reminded people he led efforts to raise the minimum wage in Montana; if he explained his denunciations of “dark money” in campaigns was related to the way he governed.  Could he have presented himself as a more practical left lane alternative than Bernie or Elizabeth?

Steve Bullock did not want to end up where he is now.  He was adamant that he was a better leader as a head of government than as a legislator.  Time and again, leaders of the Democratic Party urged him to run for the Senate against Montana’s corporate-oriented incumbent Steve Daines.   Steve Bullock took a long time between withdrawal from the presidential contest and announcing he would run for the Senate.  He can make a case that he reconsidered because Democrats urged him to run for the Senate for the good of the country.

Steve Bullock would rather be an executive because he understands the complexities of leading the implementation of things can be more important that creating the rules through legislation.   He is a more complicated man than his All-American boy image.  He was a more complicated boy, too.

Steve Bullock did seem like an All-American boy, like a kind of Golden Boy.  He had, as one story reports, an ideal boyhood – student body president, Homecoming King, Boys State and Boys Nation delegate, student representative on the State Board of Education, a high school wrestler and runner.  Had he grown up in the south or the Midwest he would have gone to the state university, been elected president of the student body.  Following graduation from the state university law school, he would have been ready to run for public office.

There were complications.  A story about Steve Bullock’s childhood in Helena, Montana, might say:  His dad was a teacher and an administrator.  His mom was a school board trustee.   Another story might say his parents were divorced when he was in elementary school.  When he was in high school, his mom, who raised him, married the school superintendent.  Another story might say: he left his East Coast job when his dad was dying, to care for him.

Let’s give Steve Bullock his complexity.  Let’s also acknowledge he was a star.  He went to Clairmont McKenna College (CMC) – a West Coast school with the character of Williams College.  Previously all male, Clairmont McKenna became coed six years after Williams did and was probably a little more conservative than Williams.  At CMC, Steve Bullock did well enough to apply to the best law schools

Steve Bullock skipped right over flyover country and went to Columbia Law School, an East Coast school that prepared students to join the elite.  He followed that path, then he didn’t.  He started in a “white shoe” law firm, but went home, probably for his father.  When in Helena, he worked for the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, for whom he eventually became the chief deputy. At home in Montana, he reconnected with a high school friend and married.

After serving as the Chief Deputy, Steve Bullock ran for Attorney General.  He lost.   After losing, he got out of town.  He went to work for Steptoe and Johnson, a Washington firm that grew large and powerful post World War II. He worked there for three years, then came home again.

Steve Bullock opened his own firm in Helena, led a statewide effort to pass a referendum to increase the minimum wage, and ran again for Attorney General.  He won. He was Montana’s third Democratic Attorney General in a row.  He served one term, cracking down on drunk drivers, fighting railroad monopolies, and defending Montana’s campaign spending limits.

 More than a year in advance, not much over 40, Steve Bullock announced he would run for governor.   He won with 48.9% of the vote, won his second term with 50.2%. He rested his failed presidential campaign on his ability to win elections and the support of the people in a state that Trump won by more than 20 points.

After agonizing, Steve Bullock joined the small, but important group of Democrats who can flip the Senate to the Democrats.  Help him achieve that goal.  Give him some money.  Find a way to volunteer for him.

Help these Democratic candidates for the Senate.


Alaska                       Physician and Commercial Fisherman Al Gross is my personal favorite to surprise the pros by defeating the get along incumbent Daniel Sullivan

 Arizona                     Astronaut Mark Kelly, gun safety leader with his wife former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, seems in a position to defeat appointed Senator and former Member of Congress Martha McSally

Colorado                  Former Governor John Hickenlooper or for House Speaker Andrew Romanoff should be able to defeat the most vulnerable Republican Senator Cory Gardner

 Montana                    Steve Bullock, popular Democratic Governor of Montana, was persuaded to oppose corporate-oriented incumbent Steve Daines.  Bullock has been elected in three state-wide elections in Montana. 


Nancy Harris, IDAHO’S “progressive choice,” has dropped her website photo in which she looked like a character from a cowboy movie. 

In TEXAS, Pilot MJ Hegar was unable to wrap up the opportunity to run against the increasingly unpopular Incumbent John Cornyn. 

In SOUTH DAKOTA, businessman Dan Ahlers in trying to make a run at Incumbent Mike Rounds. 

Three Democrats want to run for WYOMING’S open Senate seat, hoping lightning will strike – Yana Ludwig (sounds German), Chuck Jagoda (sounds Polish), and Marev Ben-David (sounds and was Israeli)


Iowa                           Businesswoman and civic leader Theresa Greenfield is well positioned to defeat the unpopular incumbent Joni Ernst.

Kansas                      Physician and former Republican State Senator Barbara Boliier is a part of a movement of moderats to the Democratic Party from Kansas’s radical Republicans.  She would be the favorite if Republicans nominate Secretary of State Kris Kobach

 Michigan                   Incumbent Democrat Gary Peters has a tough opponent in African-American Businessman John James,  who ran a strong face for governor in 2018.  Part of flipping the Senate is keeping Democratic incumbents in their seats.



Alabama                   Begin by reelecting Doug Jones, a hero of the late civil rights movement, prosecutor of KKK members who bombed the Church in Birmingham.  He will face either former Senator and Secretary of State Jeff Sessions or former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville.

Arkansas                  Unlikely to win, but capable of annoying the hell out of incumbent Tom Cotton, Dan Whitfield is an independent worth our affections in a year when the Democrats could not field a candidate.

Georgia (A)              Three Democrats are in the running for the nomination to run against incumbent David Perdue.  Something is happening in Georgia where the governorship was stolen in 2018.   

Georgia (B)              The Reverend Dr. Raphael Warnock, Senior Pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church of Atlanta, the church of MLK Sr. and Jr. is the candidate we should all support.  This is a special election, called because the Republican incumbent resigned.  Three Democrats and two Republicans are running in a non-Partisan primary which will have a run-off for the top to vote getters.  We need to be sure that a Democrat is one of the top two.  That should be The Reverend Dr. Warnock.

 Mississippi              Mike Espy was Mississippi’s first African American Member of Congress and Secretary of Agriculture under Bill Clinton.  He resigned to fight and be cleared of a phony scandal.  He was back in 2018, but lost Cindy Hyde-Smith who is now the incumbent,

North Carolina.       Businessman, environmentalist, and veteran, Can Cunningham is developing a small lead over Incumbent Thom Tillis, reviled by many Republicans for flip floppery. 

 South Carolina        Personable and persuasive, former Party Chair Jaime Harrison is targeting the odious incumbent, former moderate Republican Lindsay Graham.  If Harrison can win, South Carolina will have two African American Senators, one Republican and one Democrat



Races where you could wish for a flip. 

TENNESSEE because Democrat James Mackler is so appealing and running for an open seat. 

KENTUCKY because Mitch McConnell is a target we’d love to defeat. 

WEST VIRGINIA Democrats choose between colorful former State Sen Richard Ojeda, who last a House race in 2018, and progressive Paula Jean Swearingen, who lost in the primary to Joe Manchin in 2018.



Maine             Speaker of the House, Sara Gideon is opening up a small lead over another odious, former moderate Senator, Susan Collins.  As will all of these Democrats, to a greater or smaller degree, sufficient resources will make a Democratic Senate a probability.