Steve Bullock (American politician)

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Steve Bullock
Steve Bullock by Gage Skidmore.jpg
24th Governor of Montana
Assumed office
January 7, 2013
LieutenantJohn Walsh
Angela McLean
Mike Cooney
Preceded byBrian Schweitzer
Chair of the National Governors Association
Assumed office
July 21, 2018
Preceded byBrian Sandoval
23rd Attorney General of Montana
In office
January 5, 2009 – January 7, 2013
GovernorBrian Schweitzer
Preceded byMike McGrath
Succeeded byTim Fox
Personal details
Born
Stephen Clark Bullock

(1966-04-11) April 11, 1966 (age 53)
Missoula, Montana, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)
Lisa Downs (m. 1999)
Children3[1]
ResidenceMontana Governor's Residence
EducationClaremont McKenna College (BA)
Columbia University (JD)
Signature

Stephen Clark Bullock (born April 11, 1966) is an American politician, attorney, and former professor who is the 24th Governor of Montana. A Democrat, he was first elected in 2012.

Born in Missoula, Montana, Bullock graduated from Claremont McKenna College and Columbia Law School. He began his career working as legal counsel to the Secretary of State of Montana before becoming the Executive Assistant Attorney General and acting Chief Deputy Attorney General of Montana. Bullock then entered private practice as an attorney for Steptoe & Johnson. He was an adjunct professor at the George Washington University Law School before opening his own law firm upon returning to Montana. In 2008, Bullock was elected Attorney General of Montana, and he served one term from 2009 to 2013.

Bullock declared his candidacy for governor of Montana on September 7, 2011. The seat was open in 2012, as incumbent Governor Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, could not seek re-election due to term limits. Bullock won the Democratic primary with 87% of the vote and defeated Republican nominee Rick Hill in the general election with 48% of the vote. In 2016, Bullock won re-election with 50.2% of the vote, defeating Republican nominee Greg Gianforte.[2][3]

Bullock has chaired the National Governors Association since 2018.[4][5] He is a Democratic candidate for President of the United States in 2020.[6]

Early life, education, and law career[edit]

Bullock was born in Missoula, Montana and raised in Helena, the state capital. He is the son of Penny Clark, a school board trustee, and Mike Bullock, a teacher and administrator.[7] He graduated from Helena High School in 1984.[8] His parents divorced when he was in grade school.[9] Bullock received his undergraduate degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Claremont McKenna College and his law degree with honors from Columbia Law School in New York.[10][11]

Bullock served as chief legal counsel to Montana Secretary of State Mike Cooney. He went on to work for four years with the Montana Department of Justice under Attorney General Joe Mazurek, first as executive assistant attorney general, and later as acting chief deputy (1997–2001).[12] During this time, he also served as legislative director, coordinating the Attorney General's legislative efforts. As an Assistant Attorney General, Bullock wrote the landmark opinion that guaranteed public access to streams and rivers.[citation needed]

He was unsuccessful in his first race for Montana Attorney General, losing in the 2000 Democratic primary to Mike McGrath, who went on to be elected Attorney General that year and currently serves as Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court.[13]

From 2001-04, Bullock practiced law in Washington, D.C. with Steptoe & Johnson, where he served as an adjunct professor at George Washington University Law School. He returned to Montana in 2004, working in private practice in Helena where he represented individuals, consumer organizations, labor unions, peace officers, associations of political subdivisions, and small and large businesses.[12]

Attorney General[edit]

Bullock was the Democratic nominee for Attorney General in 2008, defeating two other candidates in the primary election in June. He went on to win the contested general election race with 52.64% of the vote against Republican Tim Fox. Bullock received 245,669 votes, more than either presidential candidate.[14] He pushed for tougher drunken driving laws and a crackdown on prescription drug abuse.[15] He introduced the 24/7 Sobriety Program for repeat DUI offenders statewide.[16] This program requires repeat drunk drivers to take breath tests twice a day. The program is aimed at keeping highways and communities free of drunk drivers, and keeping non-violent offenders out of jail and off the public rolls. The program has had success in dropping DUI offenses.[17]

The Attorney General's office also pursued the railroad industry for monopolistic business practices,[18][19] and led the way in stopping an anti-competitive merger between two the largest meat packers in the country.[20] Bullock focused on the misclassification of employees as independent contractors and allowing FedEx to avoid paying millions in state taxes and fees. Bullock's efforts resulted in changes by FedEx to comply with federal and state laws.[21]

Bullock attracted national attention by challenging the Citizens United decision through his defense of Montana's 100-year-old ban on corporate campaign expenditures.[22] After winning in the Montana Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the State of Montana in a 5-4 decision.[23][24]

Bullock, who authored the state's opinion guaranteeing access to rivers, streams, and public lands, worked with the legislature and Governor Brian Schweitzer to codify the access opinion into law.[25]

Governor of Montana[edit]

Bullock at a campaign event in Glasgow, Montana, October 31, 2012.

Elections[edit]

Bullock announced on September 7, 2011 that he would be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Montana in 2012.[26] In the Democratic primary, Bullock faced off against Helena resident Heather Margolis. Bullock won with 87% of the vote.[27]

Bullock and his running mate, then Adjutant General of Montana John Walsh, proposed a jobs plan that focuses on small and medium-sized Montana businesses as the engines of job creation. Bullock and General Walsh support:[28]

  • Streamlining the regulatory permitting process and establishing a new permit tracking system,
  • Ensuring that government services meet the demands of job creators,
  • Supporting rapid growth in eastern Montana by ensuring that communities receive funds before or in preparation for natural resource development rather than afterwards,
  • Promoting the hiring of Montanans first for jobs inside the state paid for by taxpayers’ money,
  • Expanding in-state business activity to create a business climate that spurs faster expansion and greater business-to-business activity among Montana companies,
  • Further reforming Montana's workers’ compensation system to reduce the number of workers who are injured or killed on the job, getting injured workers back to work as soon as possible and controlling medical costs.
  • Requiring major firms that are awarded state contracts to subcontract a substantial percentage of their work to in-state businesses.

Bullock proposed a $400 property tax rebate for homeowners in Montana to spur job creation and refund a portion of the state's $400 million budget surplus.[29]

John Walsh, Bullock's running mate, is the former Adjutant General of the Montana National Guard.[30] Bullock won the election, held on November 6, 2012, defeating Republican ex-US Representative Rick Hill.[31] Bullock came out on top by 7,571 votes, or 48.9%, to Hill's 47.3%. Libertarian candidate Ron Vandevender pulled 3.8% of the vote.[32]

First term[edit]

Governor Bullock and his lieutenant governor, John Walsh, were sworn in on January 7, 2013.[33] Bullock later appointed Walsh to become the new Senator from Montana to replace Max Baucus, who had been appointed Ambassador to China. Bullock then appointed Angela McLean to replace Walsh as lieutenant governor.

In November 2015, McLean announced her resignation as lieutenant governor, effective upon the appointment of her successor, in order to accept the position of director of American Indian and minority achievement in the office of the state commissioner of higher education.[34]

In December 2015, Bullock announced the appointment of Mike Cooney as McLean's replacement. Cooney was sworn in on January 4, 2016.[35]

According to a September 20, 2016, survey by Morning Consult, Bullock, with a 66% approval rating and a 19% disapproval rating, was the most popular Democratic governor in the United States, as well as the fourth-most popular overall, behind Republicans Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota, Larry Hogan of Maryland, and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts.[36]

Second term[edit]

Bullock began his second term on January 2, 2017 alongside Montana Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney.[37] Bullock and Cooney were the only two Democrats to retain statewide offices in the 2016 elections as the Republicans captured the offices of Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Montana State Auditor, and Montana Secretary of State and held onto the offices of Montana Attorney General and U.S. Representative for Montana's at-large congressional district.[38] Following the 2016 elections, Bullock faced large Republican majorities in the Montana Legislature. The Republicans gained three State Senate seats and widened their Senate majority over the Democrats to 32-18 while maintaining a 59-41 majority in the Montana House of Representatives, the same as in 2015.[38]

In the 2018 state legislative elections in Montana, Democrats won 42 of 100 seats in the Montana House of Representatives and gained two seats in the Montana Senate.[39] This meant that, in the 2019 state legislative session that Bullock presided over, Republicans held 60 percent of the seats in the upper chamber and 58 percent of the seats in the lower chamber of the Montana Legislature.[40]

2020 presidential campaign[edit]

Bullock's 2020 presidential campaign logo

In 2017 Bullock formed the Big Sky Values PAC, which has raised nearly $1.8 million, to pay for travel around the United States.[41] On May 1, 2019 it was reported that he would announce his decision on a run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination in the week of May 13, and has purportedly hired an Iowa communications staff.[42] On May 14, 2019 Bullock announced his candidacy.[43] The top donors to his campaign were David Gray, a partner and chief legal officer at Ziff Brothers Investments who gave $45,000; and Michelle Locher Ziff, wife of Ziff Brothers co-founder Robert D. Ziff who gave $40,000.[44]

Political views[edit]

Bullock has been described by The Washington Post and ABC News as a moderate Democrat.[45][46] The New York Times referred to Bullock as being among centrist Democratic governors.[47] The non-partisan organization, On The Issues, which tracks candidates' positions and records, considers Bullock to be a "Moderate Libertarian Liberal."[48]

Abortion[edit]

Bullock is pro-choice.[49] During the 2017 state legislative session, Bullock vetoed two bills (SB 282, SB 329) aimed at restricting late-term abortions.[50][51] Bullock received a 100 percent rating from NARAL in 2013[52] and was endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana in his successful 2016 reelection bid.[53]

Bullock was one of 14 Democratic governors to write a letter to Alex Azar, President Trump's Secretary of Health and Human Services, on March 31, 2018 demanding that Title X funding for women's reproductive health care and family planning remain in effect. The 14 governors threatened legal action if the Trump administration were to undermine women's access to reproductive health care.[54]

Campaign finance reform[edit]

During his tenure as Attorney General of Montana, Bullock advocated for maintaining Montana's century-old ban on corporate expenditures in elections and challenged the Citizens United decision in the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court case American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock. Although the U.S. Supreme Court disposed of Bullock's case in a 5-4 decision,[55] Bullock has advocated for campaign finance reform throughout his time as Governor of Montana.[56][57]

In 2015, Bullock steered the DISCLOSE Act, a bipartisan campaign finance reform bill that bolstered disclosure requirements in Montana elections, through a GOP-controlled state legislature.[56]

In June 2018, Bullock signed an executive order that required the recipients of major government contracts in Montana to disclose "dark money spending" in elections, including spending disclosure that is not explicitly required by federal law.[58]

On July 24, 2018, Bullock sued the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of the Treasury[59] over a recent decision to dispense with donor requirements for nonprofit organizations.[60]

Climate change and environment[edit]

Bullock believes that climate change is real and that humans contribute to it,[61][62] but Montana became the first state to halt preparations for the Clean Power Plan when the United States Supreme Court announced a stay of the plan in February 2016.[62]

In September 2014, Bullock signed an executive order creating a habitat conservation plan for sage-grouse in a bid to keep management of the imperiled bird in state hands rather than see it come under federal Endangered Species Act protection. The government said to the press: "Montanans recognize that it is in the best interest of our state, its economy and our quality of life to maintain state management of the greater sage-grouse."[63]

Democratic Party[edit]

Bullock endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general election, but expressed disagreement with Clinton's opposition to coal mining because it is an important industry in Montana. He did not attend the 2016 Democratic National Convention, citing his duties as Governor of Montana.[64] Bullock appears to have stayed neutral during the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primaries.[65]

Bullock was chairman of the Democratic Governors Association in 2015, overseeing the election of Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana,[66] a pro-life Southern Democrat who expanded Medicaid to more than 471,000 Louisianans and reformed his state's criminal justice system after winning the governorship of a heavily Republican state.[67] In 2015, Bullock expressed that there are "roles for all of us [Democrats]" within the party, referring to liberal, moderate, and conservative Democrats alike.[68]

Bullock was one of just three Democrats to win gubernatorial elections in 2016 in states that President Trump carried that year (one of whom, Jim Justice, is now a Republican), and the only incumbent Democratic governor to win re-election in a state that Trump carried.[69] He was also one of the only Democratic incumbents besides North Carolina State Auditor Beth Wood,[70] North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall,[71] West Virginia State Treasurer John Perdue,[72] and Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale[73] to win re-election to statewide offices in states that President Trump won in the 2016 presidential election.

Since the 2016 elections, in which Democrats lost the presidency, ceded control of several governorships, and came short of winning majorities in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, Bullock has publicly argued that the Democratic Party needs to expand its reach beyond urban areas and the nation's two coasts. He has encouraged Democrats to engage with and attempt to persuade voters in suburban and rural areas rather than relying solely on base turnout.[74][75] He visited Iowa,[76] Wisconsin,[77] and Colorado[78] to campaign for and speak in support of Democratic candidates during the 2018 election cycle, which saw Democrats retake the majority in the U.S. House and gain governorships and state legislature seats. Bullock's visits around the country led some to speculate that he was considering a run for President of the United States, which turned out to be true when he announced his candidacy for President on May 14, 2019.[79]

Death penalty[edit]

In 2019, Bullock said he supports the death penalty in “limited circumstances” like terrorism — a stance that distinguishes the former state attorney general from the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential field.[80]

Immigration[edit]

Then-Attorney General Steve Bullock opposed a 2012 voter-approved law in the State of Montana, Legislative Referendum 121, that would have required state agencies to verify through a federal database whether individuals requesting certain services were U.S. citizens.[81] The law, which had been intended to deny government jobs and assistance to undocumented immigrants, was ruled unconstitutional and legally unenforceable.[81]

Despite pushback from Republican state legislators, Governor Bullock supported allowing Syrian refugees to resettle in the State of Montana in 2015, but promised that ensuring the safety of Montanans would be his "top priority" during the resettlement process.[82] At least 31 other governors at the time opposed the resettlement of Syrian refugees.[82]

Bullock supports the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and signed a letter on September 7, 2017 alongside 10 other governors to congressional leaders in support of legislation that would protect DACA recipients and "take immediate action to ensure that these young people can continue to live, work, and contribute to the country they have called home for most of their lives."[83]

On April 5, 2018, Bullock refused to deploy National Guard troops from Montana to the Mexican border "based simply on the whim of the President's morning Twitter habit."[84] In June 2018, Bullock voiced strong opposition to the Trump administration's policy of family separations at the Mexican border, and said in a statement: "As a governor and a father, I'm disgusted. I don't care if it's the President or Congress - these atrocities must end immediately."[85]

Same-sex marriage[edit]

Bullock supports same-sex marriage, and praised a federal judge for striking down Montana's same-sex marriage ban in 2014, which made Montana the 34th U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage.[86] He also supported the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, and said in a statement on June 26, 2015: “This ruling protects the right of all Montanans to marry the person they love, and moves our state and nation closer to the promise of freedom, dignity, and equality that they were founded upon. All people, regardless of their sexual orientation, should have the opportunity to make a good life for themselves and their families.”[87] Bullock has also spoken at Pride rallies in Montana,[88][89] and, in 2015, became the first sitting governor in Montana history to officiate a same-sex wedding.[90]

In 2016, Bullock enacted an executive order that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity for state employees, state contractors, and subcontractors.[91] The executive order expanded upon a previous executive order signed by former Governor Brian Schweitzer in 2008, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation but did not include protections for gender identity and did not apply to contractors or subcontractors.[92]

Net neutrality[edit]

Bullock supports net neutrality and opposed the Federal Communication Commission's decision to repeal net neutrality.[93] On January 22, 2018, Bullock signed an executive order that any internet service provider with a state government contract cannot legally block or charge additional fees for faster delivery of websites, two major principles of net neutrality.[94] Through this executive order, Montana became the first state to implement and enforce net neutrality after the FCC repeal.[95] The governors of New York,[96] New Jersey,[97] Vermont,[98] Hawaii,[99] and Rhode Island[100] eventually followed suit.

Organized labor[edit]

Bullock has been recognized and endorsed by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO),[101] and by the Montana Education Association - Montana Federation of Teachers,[102] for his support of worker's rights and public education.

Bullock opposes right-to-work legislation,[103] which allows workers to forgo paying union dues while still benefitting from union-negotiated labor contracts.[104] Montana is the only state in the Upper Rocky Mountain region of the U.S. that does not have right-to-work legislation in place, and all of its neighboring states do not provide the same level of protection for labor unions.[103]

On January 18, 2018, Bullock filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of allowing labor unions to make "agency fees" mandatory.[105] Bullock opposed the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Janus v. AFSCME, and said in a statement: "The US Supreme Court just overturned 40 years of settled law that workers, employers and unions across the country rely on. All the more ironic, the 5-4 decision cited Citizens United as a reason to do so."[106]

Electoral history[edit]

Montana's Attorney General Democratic Primary Election, 2000[107]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mike McGrath 61,400 70.02
Democratic Steve Bullock 26,291 29.98
Montana's Attorney General Democratic Primary Election, 2008[108]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Steve Bullock 63,276 42.04
Democratic Mike Wheat 54,859 36.45
Democratic John Parker 32,362 21.50
Montana's Attorney General Election, 2008[109]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Steve Bullock 245,669 52.64
Republican Tim Fox 220,992 47.36
Montana's Gubernatorial Democratic Primary Election, 2012[110]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Steve Bullock/John Walsh 76,738 86.65
Democratic Heather Margolis/Steve Nelsen 11,823 13.35
Montana's Gubernatorial Election, 2012[111]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Steve Bullock/John Walsh 236,450 48.90
Republican Rick Hill/Jon Sonju 228,879 47.34
Libertarian Ron Vandevender/Marc Mulcahy 18,160 3.76
Montana's Gubernatorial Democratic Primary Election, 2016[112]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Steve Bullock/Mike Cooney (Incumbent) 111,675 91.22
Democratic Bill McChesney/Mike Anderson 10,744 8.78
Montana's Gubernatorial Election, 2016[113]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Steve Bullock/Mike Cooney (Incumbent) 255,933 50.25
Republican Greg Gianforte/Lesley Robinson 236,115 46.36
Libertarian Ted Dunlap/Ron Vandevender 17,312 3.39

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Mike McGrath
Attorney General of Montana
2009–2013
Succeeded by
Tim Fox
Party political offices
Preceded by
Brian Schweitzer
Democratic nominee for Governor of Montana
2012, 2016
Most recent
Preceded by
Peter Shumlin
Chair of the Democratic Governors Association
2014–2015
Succeeded by
Dan Malloy
Political offices
Preceded by
Brian Schweitzer
Governor of Montana
2013–present
Incumbent
Preceded by
Brian Sandoval
Chair of the National Governors Association
2018–present
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Mike Pence
as Vice President
Order of Precedence of the United States
Within Montana
Succeeded by
Mayor of city
in which event is held
Succeeded by
Otherwise Nancy Pelosi
as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Kristi Noem
as Governor of South Dakota
Order of Precedence of the United States
Outside Montana
Succeeded by
Jay Inslee
as Governor of Washington