Presidential hopeful Steve Bullock campaigns during city’s annual festival

Published: 6/21/2019 7:07:04 PM

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock wanted to share what makes him different than everyone else in a record-setting field of Democrats during next week’s first round of presidential primary debates, but he won’t get the chance, so he came to Concord to tell voters in person.

“I’m the only one in this field who won in a Trump state,” said the Democratic presidential candidate, in an interview with the Monitor that came before a trip to Concord’s Market Days festival.

Bullock, who jumped into the race for the nomination just five weeks ago, didn’t meet either of the Democratic National Committee’s thresholds to make the stage at debate, failing to either rack up contributions from 65,000 unique donors or to hit at least one percent in three qualifying polls

His exclusion didn’t come without resistance.

“We’re certainly disappointed in the DNC’s decision to not allow me in the debates, because initially we made three qualifying polls, but then they discounted one,” Bullock said.

The DNC determined two weeks ago that a January poll by ABC News/Washington Post in which Bullock hit one percent did not count toward its requirement because the poll was open-ended, meaning respondents had to volunteer a name and not choose from a series of names. That knocked him down to two polls at one percent and off the debate stage. Still, the Montana governor is confident in his prospects.

“The polling will only increase the longer I’m in this,” said Bullock, who hinted he might’ve made the debate if he hadn’t waited in Montana to finish a Medicaid expansion deal with his state’s Republican majority legislature. That Medicaid expansion passed, and he said he doesn’t regret his delayed entry.

“If I had to choose between getting health care for 100,000 people or chasing 100,000 donors – easiest decision I’ve ever made,” Bullock emphasized.

As he grappled with Montana Republicans, he touted that he also managed to freeze college tuition and pass record investments in K-12 education and infrastructure. He thinks his ability to work across the aisle will get him elected.

“People want government to actually work,” said Bullock. “A lot of people talk about it, and Washington, D.C., has become a place where talking has become a replacement for actually doing. I am the one who’s actually done it.”

Compromising with Republicans doesn’t mean compromising progressive values, said Bullock, who claimed to hold the record for most vetoes in Montana state history and have never failed to protect public lands, women’s reproductive rights, collective bargaining rights and voting rights.

“If we can’t connect both bringing out our base and bringing out some of the voters that we lost, we’re not going to win,” emphasized Bullock, who claimed about 25% of the people that voted for him in 2016 also voted for Republican Donald Trump for president.

Bullock says he’s qualified for the second round of debates in Detroit in late July. Until then, he’ll be making his case in the Granite State. While the 20 candidates who made the debate stage – a record crowd for either party – are in Miami, he’ll be in Iowa and New Hampshire talking to voters. He’ll appear on a town-hall televised state wide on June 27.

At Market Days, a crowd gathered around Bullock as he walked past a bouncy castle in front of the State House. He came up to the local Democrats’ booth, where a picture of New Hampshire’s Republican governor and the words “Veto Sununu” were painted above the bell of a carnival strength test. The Democrats offered Bullock, head of the National Governor’s Association, a whack. He declined.

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