Democratic Montana Gov. Steve Bullock will challenge Republican incumbent Sen. Steve Daines this fall after brushing off interest after failed presidential run.
Bullock, 53, initially rejected the idea of launching a Senate bid but changed his mind after meeting with former President Barack Obama and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. The Montana governor is expected to make his candidacy official filing the paperwork sometime Monday.
I’ve always fought for the people of Montana. Together, we expanded health care, protected public lands, banned dark money in politics & more. Now I’m taking that fight to the US Senate. Let’s make Washington work more like Montana. Join us: https://t.co/vyPPioB0tJ #MTSen #MTpol pic.twitter.com/6VuCKsNTeW
— Steve Bullock (@stevebullockmt) March 9, 2020
Prior to Daines’ election in 2014, the seat was held for more than 35 years by Democratic Sen. Max Baucus who left the Senate to serve as U.S. ambassador to China under Obama.
Bullock’s move draws parallels to former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s decision to drop out of the crowded Democratic White House field last year to chase a Senate seat held by a Republican incumbent. Hickenlooper had also previously turned down the idea of a Senate bid repeatedly telling reporters that the former governor was “not cut out” for the job.
The Colorado businessman, however, faces a far tougher primary this summer possibly facing up to eight other candidates on ballot in June, including former Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff. The winner will face Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in November.
Both Colorado and Montana are prime targets for Democrats this fall hoping to oust who they see as vulnerable Republican incumbents to land them two seats closer to reclaiming their Senate majority. Currently, Republicans hold a three-seat majority with 53 Republicans and 45 Democrats serving in the upper chamber. The two independents in the Senate, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine caucus with the Democrats.
The National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC) quickly blasted Bullock over supporting Trump’s impeachment and endorsing a federal gun buyback program while offering support for Daines in response to Bullock’s announcement.
“Steve Bullock ran his administration like a frat house and acquiesced to the far left during his comical presidential run, not exactly the strongest way to launch a Senate campaign,” NRSC spokesman Nathan Brand said in a statement. “Bullock supported impeaching President Trump, wants to ban guns, and ignore illegal immigration. One can see why, given their visceral disdain for the Montana way of life, Washington Democrats rolled out the red carpet for Bullock. Meanwhile, Steve Daines always puts Montana first, is a proven leader and a strong ally for President Trump.”
Bullock dropped out of the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination in December after failing to gain traction among voters and only participated in one debate.