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Montana Governor and Democratic presidential candidate Steve Bullock addresses a group of supporters at Cafe Diem on May 28. He addressed topics such as voting access as well as union and women’s rights. 

There were many story lines that were derived from the first Democratic debate. Many not-so-familiar faces were able to grab their sliver of the limelight, but one key figure was missing in the debates. Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana was a notable omission from the debate. He was unable to obtain the qualifications for the debate stage as he was finishing up his legislative session.

According to the Partisan Voter Index from the Cook Political Report, Montana has a +11 Republican swing. A candidate that has won in multiple statewide races as a Democrat, given the politics of the state, should be ample qualifications for a presidential bid. While he is clearly going to qualify for the next debate, the issues he focuses on and his particular expertise would have been a positive addition to the debate.

The main issue Bullock touched on that made him unique to me was the impact dark money has in politics. Despite being overruled by the Supreme Court, Bullock fought hard to retain the long-standing Montana laws surrounding campaign finance. While many Democrats are touting their “grassroots” fundraising in this presidential cycle, this is not the norm throughout the American political climate

The first debate could have used a candidate on stage who was focused on this issue as it was largely ignored in the judicial and policy-making frames. Those on the left and the right of the aisle disagree with and dislike the decision of the Supreme Court.

Particularly noteworthy for Iowans is the key endorsement he received from Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller. Miller, who is the longest serving attorney general in the country, gives Bullock a lot of legitimacy on paper and gives him a lot of appeal with Iowa democrats who don’t have many other long-standing state politicians to look to to guide the party. Such a premiere endorsement from a prominent Iowan public servant may serve as the key for Bullock to gain a foothold in the state, where state-specific endorsements like Miller’s are hard to come by.

While he is not my favorite candidate in the race at this time these ideas, policy position and qualifications should, to me, lend Bullock more of a presence in the conversation about who the party nominates to take on Trump. Dark money and old-school politics of compromise and connecting with people are things that Bullock has to offer to this election cycle and having him be a more prominent piece of the discussion about Democratic principles will be a positive thing in the coming debates.

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