Gov. Steve Bullock at Editorial Board

Gov. Steve Bullock speaks with the Chronicle editorial board on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018, at the newspaper.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock this morning announced his long-anticipated candidacy for president, joining a crowded field of 22 Democrats vying to unseat Donald Trump.

“I believe in an America where every child has a fair shot to do better than their parents. But we all know that kind of opportunity no longer exists for most people; for too many, it never has,” he said in a statement.

Bullock, 53, is nearing the end of his second term as governor. He won reelection in 2016 against Republican Greg Gianforte with 50.3% of the vote at the same time that President Donald Trump won Montana by 20%.

Bullock is positioning himself as someone who can cut through partisanship and speak directly to voters in order to get things done.

He has worked with a Republican-dominated state Legislature to expand Medicaid. The law includes work requirements for recipients, which were backed by Republican lawmakers.

He also created a program that lowers insurance premiums on the individual market and found ways to increase access to treatment in rural and Native American communities. At the same time, he vetoed a bill that would likely have lowered prescription drug costs.

Over the last few weeks, he has signed into law a two-year college tuition freeze, funding for need-based financial aid to state universities and a major infrastructure bill that included upgrades to Romney Hall and a new Montana Heritage Center.

Although Bullock succeeded in getting much of his agenda for the 2019 legislative session accomplished, he failed to convince lawmakers to expand high-quality preschool across the state.

Prior to becoming governor in 2012, Bullock served as Montana attorney general for one term during which time he challenged the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling by defending Montana’s ban on corporate campaign spending.

Although he lost the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, he went on to advocate for campaign finance reform in the state. In 2015, he signed a bill into law that required more disclosure surrounding campaign donations and in 2018, he signed an executive order requiring state contractors to release their contributions to “dark money” organizations.

“We need to defeat Donald Trump in 2020 and defeat the corrupt system that lets campaign money drown out the people’s voice, so we can finally make good on the promise of a fair shot for everyone,” Bullock said in his presidential campaign announcement.

Bullock, who was born in Missoula and raised in Helena, began exploring a presidential bid shortly after his 2016 election. In 2017, he formed the Big Sky Values PAC, which was widely seen as the first step in exploring a presidential bid. He also visited Iowa and New Hampshire a handful of times.

Bullock was seen as a possible challenger to Sen. Steve Daines, a Bozeman Republican, for his seat in 2020, but has said he is not interested in serving in the Senate.

Bullock has hired several well-known political operatives for his campaign. They include Jennifer Palmieri, a communications director for the Obama White House and for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign; Jennifer Ridder, the manager of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ winning 2018 campaign; and Nick Baldick, who worked on Al Gore’s 2002 campaign and former Sen. John Edward’s 2005 campaign.

Perrin Stein can be reached at 406-582-2648 or at pstein@dailychronicle.com. Follow her on Twitter @PerrinStein.

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