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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Steve Bullock: 2020 General Election Q&A

Steve Bullock is the 2020 Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.
Gov. Steve Bullock is the 2020 Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.

Montana Public Radio is gathering information on all statewide general election candidates to publish as a resource for our audience. We asked all the statewide candidates to respond to the following questions via email, limiting their answers to 150 words per question. These are their unedited responses.

Steve Bullock is the 2020 Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.

The country is feeling health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. What steps should Congress and national leaders take to slow the virus’ spread and repair the economy?

In the Senate, I will be the only member who can bring the experience of being a Governor who managed the state response to this crisis to bear. First and foremost, I’ll make sure science, not politics, guides us. I will continue to push for a national testing strategy, a coordinated message on how to tackle the virus, and a reliable supply chain for critical equipment for personal protective equipment, testing supplies, and other critical resources.

On the economic side, we need to continue to provide for Montana’s small businesses, and ensure that relief goes to Main Street, not big corporations. Congress should pass a national investment in our infrastructure to jump start our economy. This would provide economic support for our local communities and create good jobs that you can’t outsource, while improving our roads, bridges, water systems, and broadband that desperately needs an upgrade.

What areas of federal spending should be increased and what should be cut? Do you think Congress should make it a priority to pay down the federal deficit and, if so, how should it be paid down?

Every year that I have been Governor, we’ve brought Democrats and Republicans together to balance our budget. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to do much better in Washington.

Our federal deficit is out of control, because politicians like Senator Daines are looking out for themselves and the corporate interests that bankroll their campaigns. Before the pandemic, the federal deficit hit one trillion dollars a year, because Daines helped craft a tax cut that added nearly two trillion to the deficit while giving massive tax giveaways to big corporations and ultra wealthy individuals like himself.

In the Senate, I’ll stand up to the corporate interests to crack down on the handouts that they’ve been receiving while Washington has saddled our kids and grandkids with heaps of debt. I’m not taking a dime from corporate PACs, because I’m running for Senate to serve Montana –– not special interests.

What if any changes do you believe congress should make to Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare? Do you support repealing, replacing or changing the Affordable Care Act? (300 word limit)

The last thing Congress should do is cut critical programs that our seniors rely on, like Medicare and Social Security. Legacy Montanans earned these benefits through a lifetime of hard work. But special interests in Washington will continue to try to deny them the benefits they’ve rightfully earned. We need to do everything we can to make sure the program remains steady and funded for Montanans who rely on it now, and will in the future.

From opposing attempts to raise the retirement age, to ensuring that Medicare remains accessible and properly funded, to fighting against any attempts from Washington insiders to privatize Social Security –– I will fight for the Montanans who depend on these key programs and stand firm against any and all cuts to them.

The Affordable Care Act certainly isn’t perfect, but the answer is not to just repeal the progress we’ve made. We’ve brought Democrats and Republicans together to expand health care to 90,000 Montanans, fought to lower costs, and saved our rural hospitals.

If Senator Daines had his way and the Affordable Care Act is repealed, over one hundred thousand Montanans would be at risk of losing coverage –– all because Daines wants to fatten the profits of the insurance industry who has given over $300,000 to his campaign.

We need to build on the ACA to make healthcare more affordable for the people we represent. When I’m in the Senate, I’ll take on pharmaceutical companies to lower drug costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate down drug prices. I’ll take on insurance companies to lower the cost of care like I have fought for as Governor. And I’ll stand up every day to the Washington politicians who want to deny you coverage.

Do you support transferring federally owned land to the control of the state of Montana? Why or why not?

Public lands are one of our great equalizers. As I have as Attorney General and Governor, we need to make sure our public lands have the protections and resources they need so that future generations can enjoy these lands as well. I’ll push for real action at the federal level to expand access to our public lands, not allow them to be transferred which is often the first step in selling them to private interests.

In the Senate, I’ll oppose any and all attempts to transfer or sell off our public lands, and stand up to public officials and corporate interests who threaten them. Meanwhile, Senator Daines voted for a measure that risked the sale of our public lands, despite saying that he’d oppose such measures during his campaign.

Protecting our public lands is what I’ve done my whole career, and that won’t change once I get to Washington.

Do you support changes to federal gun laws? If so, what specific changes do you want to see?

I’m a hunter and a gun owner, and throughout my time in office, I have stood up to Washington liberals who have tried to infringe on our Second Amendment rights and led the state’s efforts to have the Second Amendment recognized as an individual right. But every time I have bought a gun in Montana, I’ve had to go through a violent history background check.

I’ve never met a gun owner who doesn’t care about keeping their community safe. We should pass violent history background checks to prevent violent criminals and bad actors from being able to purchase a firearm.

If we start to look at the issue of gun violence as a public health issue, not a political one, we can both protect our Second Amendment rights and keep weapons out of the wrong hands.

What role, if any, should the federal government take in addressing the effects of climate change?

Montanans are outdoors folks. Our fire seasons are 40 days longer now than they were 30 years ago, and our farmers are seeing changes in their planting seasons. From our way of life to our economy, we’re already experiencing the effects of climate change.

We can address climate change by increasing renewable energy production while creating good jobs and not leaving our communities behind, which is what I have tried to accomplish as Governor. We doubled Montana’s wind power and quadrupled our solar power generation, and worked to find innovative ways to use coal as a cleaner energy source.

In the Senate, I’ll also explore new ways to use coal as an energy source while limiting our impact on the environment through carbon capture and sequestration. And I will make sure that those who have powered our nation for decades are first in line for new energy jobs.

Protests this summer called for reforms in policing systems across the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. What, if any, changes do you think should be made in response to these requests and what is the role of Congress in changing policing systems?

As a nation we need to identify and address the historical disadvantages and discrimination that still have impact today. We also need to protect avenues for people to express those First Amendment rights.

As Attorney General, I oversaw our law enforcement academy and our highway patrol Together, we created a task force to crack down on child sexual predators and opioid abuse, and changed the way we tackle multiple DUI offenders.

I oppose any efforts to defund the police. Congress should work with law enforcement to do better by all communities. I support requiring body cameras,banning choke holds, and ending no knock warrants in drug cases. I also support greater state and federal authority to investigate police misconduct and more training for our officers.

As Senator, I will work with Democrats and Republicans for meaningful reform, but I do not believe defunding the police is the answer.

If elected, what legislation would you make your number one priority over the next year?

My number one priority is to make affordable, quality healthcare accessible to all Montanans, no matter where they live.

As Governor, I worked across the aisle to expand healthcare to over 90,000 Montanans, keep our rural hospitals open, and supported protections for people with pre-existing conditions. We need to do everything we can to hold insurance companies and special interests accountable when they try to raise prices or refuse to cover things like pre-existing conditions.

We’ve made real progress in recent years through measures like the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid Expansion, but all of that hard work is threatened by a lawsuit that Senator Daines supports to overturn the ACA scheduled for one week after the election.

In the Senate, I want to build on the progress we’ve made so that healthcare is affordable and high quality and make sure no one is left behind.

How did you vote, or how would you have voted, either to convict or acquit, in the U.S. Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump earlier this year? Why?

I was against impeachment for a long time because I thought it’d further divide us as a nation. But as a public servant, I took an oath to defend the Constitution, and members of both parties found evidence that the president’s actions were unlawful. Senator Romney said it best, the president’s pressure campaign on a foreign government put his own “personal and political” interests ahead of our national security interests.

However, I know that many Montanans sincerely believe the impeachment process was designed to hurt the president. Now, in part because the Senate refused to call witnesses, we came out of the process more divided. That division is one reason I am running for the Senate.

In Montana, I’ve worked hard to earn respect from folks who disagree with me on almost every issue — by showing up and listening, not just talking. We need more of that in Washington.

Both Congress and the country are deeply politically divided. Would you take steps to bridge this divide and, if so, how?

The political divides in our country are real, but we have to be able to put the partisanship aside to do what’s right by the people we represent. That’s what we’ve been able to do in Montana while I’ve been Governor.

From expanding healthcare to 90,000 Montanans to kicking dark money out of state elections, every single one of my legislative accomplishments has been done with a legislature that’s nearly 2/3 Republican.

It’s not always easy and we certainly have our serious disagreements on the issues, but we cannot let that prevent us from getting real things done.

That’s why I’ll not just take steps but prioritize building relationships with my colleagues across the aisle, find areas that we can all agree on like campaign finance reform or infrastructure, and buck party leadership to actually get things done for Montana in Washington.

What steps will you take to make sure you are accessible and heard by your constituents if elected? Will this focus on in-person or remote town halls?

Accessibility and transparency are two things that I have made a priority while in office. It's essential that Montanans are able to hear directly from their election officials. Throughout my time in office, I’ve tried my level best to be accessible to the people I serve. That won’t change when I get to Washington.

It’s unfortunate that Senator Daines has hid from Montanans and stopped holding public town halls, which should be expected from all members of Congress. Daines hasn’t held an in person town hall in years, and has ducked and dodged Montanans at every turn.

As your Senator, you can bet that I will hold public, in-person town halls so that I can hear directly from you, and I’ll never forget who I’m in Washington to represent–– the people of Montana.

What other issues are important to your campaign?

The corrupting influence of money in our politics is the defining issue of our time, and it’s been the fight of my career. As Attorney General, I led the first major state challenge to Citizens United before the Supreme Court. We lost that case, but I haven’t stopped fighting the influence of money in our system. As Governor, I brought people together to pass the Montana Disclose Act, one of the strongest campaign disclosure laws in the country, and banned foreign money in our elections.

But Washington has still been held hostage by big money, and Senator Daines hasn’t lifted a finger to fix it. We need to take real steps on campaign finance reform at the federal level and address the influence of money in our campaigns and our politics.

We got it done here in Montana and we need to be able to get it done in Washington.

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