Bullock 2020? Democrats might want to hold off on their presidential choice until they hear from Montana’s popular governor in May, writes Politico’s Alex Thompson. He may not win in the Identitarian Sweepstakes, but Steve Bullock could give Beltway Democrats a run for their money by tacking to the center and playing the outsider card:
Gov. Steve Bullock — perhaps the one potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate with a fan club of elected Republicans back home — presented his state as a model of governance in an era of D.C. dysfunction during his final State of the State address Thursday night.
“Now, you and I both know that the distance between Helena, Montana and Washington, D.C. is measured by more than the 2,150 geographical miles,” he told the Republican-dominated state legislature. “We see each other as neighbors first. When making political decisions we still share a common set of facts. By and large, we treat one another with respect, even when we disagree. Our politics are more than a sport, or a zero-sum game.“
Sticking to the form of such speeches, Bullock ticked off perceived accomplishments and set priorities for the upcoming legislative session set to end on May 1. Bullock will likely wait until then before making a final decision on a White House run. But he’s been laying groundwork for more than a year, making visits to Iowa and New Hampshire along and courting donors and national media.
His pitch to national audiences who don’t know him is that he won reelection in 2016 in a state Donald Trump won by 20 points and passed Medicaid expansion and campaign finance reform in a state legislature dominated by Republicans. In short, he says he’s a Democrat who can get stuff done and heal partisan wounds.
And that could be valuable — if in fact Democrats still value those qualities. Thus far, one could say the jury is still out. The 2020 race looks like a contest of identities rather than accomplishments, of which Cory Booker’s entrance today is simply the most clear. Booker has done nothing in the Senate except to pose as an outrage vendor. Kamala Harris has a similar track record, as does Kirsten Gillibrand, and Elizabeth Warren’s only major accomplishment on the national stage came prior to her election as Senator. No one has cast a vote yet, but it’s safe to say that Bullock’s entry into the race might provide the first substantive résumé for governance.
Theoretically, anyway. In practice, the prospects are already not looking so good. Yesterday, before Politico had a chance to highlight Bullock’s potential as a presidential contender, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio fired a potentially fatal shot to Bullock’s hopes:
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday ripped Montana Gov. Steve Bullock for not telling his administration that a senior staffer had been fired for sexual harassment before he was hired by City Hall.
“Clearly they had information and when DOI reached out, they did not share the information they had,” de Blasio said about the Department of Investigations contacting Montana officials about the aide, Kevin O’Brien, who was fired here after sexual harassment complaints were lodged against him.
“It’s personally frustrating. If we had known, we would not have hired him. It’s as simple as that,” Hizzoner said.
“The whole thing is disgusting and it makes me tremendously angry that someone lied to us,” he said, referring to O’Brien, adding that “he falsified the form based on everything we know.”
Yikes. It only got worse from there, in a measure of the difference between potential and reality. In response, Bullock’s team admitted that he hadn’t informed de Blasio’s office because — ahem — he thought O’Brien had learned his lesson:
“When I was made aware of the complaint against Mr. O’Brien at the Democratic Governors Association, I fully agreed with the decision to end his employment,” Bullock said in a written statement. …
Bullock spokeswoman Ronja Abel said Tuesday that Bullock did not tell de Blasio about the dismissal because he believed O’Brien would not harass women again after his firing from the Democratic Governors Association, something Bullock now believes was not a strong enough action to prohibit further women being harmed.
“Gov. Bullock fully agreed with the decision to end Mr. O’Brien’s employment with the DGA and at the time expected that having been held accountable for his actions, Kevin would not repeat this behavior. Knowing what he knows now, it’s clear to Bullock the DGA termination wasn’t enough to protect more women from what has proven to be an unacceptable pattern of behavior. We all have a responsibility to do better and put an end to sexual harassment, and Bullock is committed to doing his part,” Abel said.
Double yikes. At least Bullock had this come out early, giving him time to recover from the punch to the solar plexus. He can perhaps embrace the failure as a learning experience and embrace sexual-harassment reform as part of his campaign agenda. However, that might be a Sisyphean task in an identitarian environment and a cycle with female candidates who will be perceived as naturally better advocates for this issue. That’s even true of Harris, despite her own issues with close staff and harassment.
Ah Steve, we hardly knew ye. Even if Bullock doesn’t succeed in making a dark-horse entry into the 2020 sweepstakes, he’s the model of what Democrats need in the upcoming election. They need to get out of the Beltway for their next nominee and find someone who has a track record of appealing across the partisan and ideological divide. If Bullock’s not it, perhaps John Bel Edwards in Louisiana is the next prospect to consider.