Gov. Steve Bullock voted against the Democratic Party platform approved Tuesday evening at the party’s national convention, but his cited rationale diverged from the reason cited by large numbers of other delegates who refused to sign off on the document.
Bullock’s campaign pointed to the party’s stance on banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands, abolishing the death penalty, and language to “reimagine policing” as policies he could not support.
“I’m not going to rubber stamp a platform that was crafted by party leaders,” Bullock said in a statement.
Bullock, who is prevented by term limits from seeking a third term as governor, seeks to depose incumbent U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican. He entered the race in March, on the last possible day to register to run, after dropping out of the crowded field then seeking the Democratic nomination for president. Two of the contenders in that race now head the ticket, with former Vice President Joe Biden accepting the party’s nomination as president Tuesday night and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., as vice president on Wednesday.
The national party platform approved Tuesday lacked a Medicare for All provision, drawing objections from many of the delegates, prominent among them progressive Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Michigan, and Ro Khanna, D-California; it was a signature issue for former presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, for whom many delegates cast votes Tuesday.
Although the party did not release vote totals, Forbes reported last month that some 700 Democratic delegates pledged to reject the platform if it didn’t include Medicare for All. Montana’s delegation contained 28 members, 25 of them voting members.
Bullock has long opposed Medicare for All; he articulated that stance, and other objections to what would become the party’s platform, during his quest for the presidential nomination.
During a CNN Town Hall last August, then-presidential hopeful Bullock said in response to a question that he wanted to build on the Affordable Care Act, not start anew with a program such as Medicare for All. (That same town hall marked one of the repeated times he said he would “absolutely not” run for Senate.)
“While it (the platform) includes measures that would greatly advance the people of our country, it falls short of protecting Montana’s way of life,” Bullock said in a statement this week.
Among Bullock’s objections are part of the party’s stance on gun violence; specifically, a provision requiring guns to be safely stored in homes, the campaign said.
It's part of a policing plank that also states, among other things, that “Democrats believe we need to overhaul the criminal justice system from top to bottom. Police brutality is a stain on the soul of our nation. It is unacceptable that millions of people in our country have good reason to fear they may lose their lives in a routine traffic stop, or while standing on a street corner, or while playing with a toy in a public park.”
The support for a ban on new oil and gas leases on public lands — the provision to which Bullock objects — is part of a lengthy plank on combating climate change; that particular sentence includes “modifying royalties to account for climate costs, and establishing targeted programs to enhance reforestation and develop renewables on federal lands and water.”
“The governor has always strived to be an independent voice for Montana. Voters trust him to represent all Montanans, not just one party, platform, or point of view,” said campaign spokesman Sean Manning.
Daines' campaign spokeswoman Julia Doyle said that Bullock "spent the better half of the last two years running around with the national Democrats but now, two months out from his election in Montana, he’s pretending he’s not one of them."
Candidates often use their support — or, more notably, their opposition — to their party’s platform as a way to establish their independent-minded bona fides, said Dora Kingsley Vertenten, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Price School of Public Policy.
“It’s not that unusual” for candidates to vote against their own party’s platform, said Vertenten, an expert in political consulting and election campaigns.
“Clearly stating that you are not supporting the party platform would be seen as a reach across the aisle and a bid to attract crossover votes from Republicans who are angry at the Senate,” she said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
More to the point, she said, “over the years there’s no purpose for a party platform. … It’s an artifact from a bygone era when there was no other way to communicate directly with citizens and voters.”
The Republican Party, for instance, opted to carry over its 2016 platform that hearkened back to then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign, the New York Times reported — even though the 2016 document contained several disparaging references to the previous administration, references that when applied today would point to now-President Trump’s own administration.
Daines is not a delegate and thus does not vote on the party platform, said Doyle. As to whether he supports its provisions, she said Daines' "voting record is what matters here."
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