Steve Bullock, Governor of Montana, speaks at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., on Monday, May 1, 2017.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock launched a Senate campaign Monday, creating another potentially competitive race for a Democratic Party desperately trying to flip control of the chamber.
Bullock, who ran for president in 2020, repeatedly said he would not challenge Republican Sen. Steve Daines after he left the race in December. But he apparently had a change of heart after prodding from Washington Democrats.
His decision gives the party a top recruit and puts Montana on the map in November. The second-term governor won reelection in 2016 even as President Donald Trump carried his state by about 20 percentage points.
In a video announcing his run, Bullock’s campaign highlighted job and wage growth in Montana, along with the state’s Medicaid expansion to extend insurance coverage to low-income residents. It highlighted the issues on which he plans to run, including affordable health care, lower prescription drug costs and infrastructure improvements, among other topics.
“After hearing from Montanans and talking to [Bullock’s wife] 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,” the governor said in a statement.
Republicans hold a 53-47 edge in the Senate. Democrats would have to flip four net seats to gain control of the chamber. While it has chances in potentially competitive races in Colorado, Arizona, Maine and North Carolina, it also has to defends seats in deep red Alabama and swing state Michigan.
Control of the Senate will shape which economic policies the next president can pass and who will serve on federal courts.
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester won reelection in Montana in 2018 — though the president did not lead the ticket then. Winning the state as a Democrat should prove more difficult with Trump on the ballot.
Daines, a first-term senator and former congressman, easily won his 2014 election. His campaign did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the governor’s entry into the race.
In a statement responding to Bullock’s entry into the race, National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Nathan Brand tied Bullock to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, saying “Washington Democrats rolled out the red carpet for Bullock.” He said Daines “always puts Montana first, is a proven leader and a strong ally for President Trump.”
To face Daines, Bullock will still need to get through a jammed Democratic primary field. Other candidates are Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins, Navy veteran John Mues and mathematician Mike Knoles. Public health advocate Cora Neumann, who was running for Senate, dropped out and endorsed Bullock on Monday, according to Politico.
Libertarian candidate Eric Fulton also entered the race recently, according to the Associated Press.