By Bobby Caina Calvan Associated Press
HELENA (AP) – Montana Gov. Steve Bullock downplayed his national political ambitions Tuesday even as he set up a committee that would fund travel for political appearances across the country.
During a meeting with reporters in his Montana Capitol office, Bullock said he was seeking to add his voice to the national conversation on health care, public lands and the direction of the Democratic Party—from the perspective of a rural governor in a mostly red state.
Despite attempting to raise his national stature, the two-term governor said any speculation about a presidential bid or a run for the U.S. Senate in 2020 was premature.
“2020 is long, long way away,” Bullock said.
Nevertheless, he filed registration papers with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday for a political action committee called Big Sky Values, which will allow him to raise money to make appearances on the political circuit.
As Democrats regroup from last November’s losses, it remains to be seen who could emerge to retake the White House in 2020. Bullock is among many Democrats testing potential presidential runs.
“Montana has a story that I’m being asked more and more often about,” Bullock said, adding that his party needs to widen its appeal to voters across the country.
“National Democrats need to be showing up in places beyond just the coasts and the bright blue areas. I think a lot of times, national Democrats write off a lot of the country,” Bullock said. “I’m hopeful that as part of the conversation we’re saying that every ZIP code matters—and it does—not just for winning elections but for governing afterward.”
Bullock touts himself as a political pragmatist who has the ability to work across the aisle in a state that leans conservative. In November, he was the only Democrat to win statewide office—despite a Republican wave that allowed Donald Trump to win Montana by 20 percentage points.
In his first term, he worked with moderate Republicans to win passage of Medicaid expansion and stricter campaign finance laws.
Bullock will be termed out in 2020 and has time to consider his political future. He would be his party’s obvious choice to run against Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, should he decide against pursuing a bid for the White House.
Bullock noted that he still has work to do as a governor of a state that is facing a host of challenges, including expanding access to health care and education.
On the same day he registered his national committee, he also filed documents with Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices for a second committee, the Montana Working Together PAC, which Bullock said would focus on electing more Democrats to the state Legislature to help him push his legislative agenda during the 2019 session.
Among the major tasks ahead is winning legislative support to reauthorize the state’s Medicaid expansion program, which sunsets in 2019.
Also on Tuesday, Bullock joined 10 other governors in again pushing for a bipartisan approach to resolving the congressional impasse over revamping the country’s health care laws.
The group of Democratic and Republican governors urged Congress to reject efforts to repeal the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act without a bipartisan replacement. “The best next step is for both parties to come together and do what we can all agree on: fix our unstable insurance markets,” the governors said.
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