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Montana Governor Steve Bullock: Democrats are in danger of not connecting with rural voters

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democratic presidential hopeful, speaks Friday on “Iowa Press” at Iowa Public Television’s studios in Johnston. He warmed that Democratic candidates are in danger of failing to connect with the voters the party needs to win in 2020. (Erin Murphy/Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau)
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democratic presidential hopeful, speaks Friday on “Iowa Press” at Iowa Public Television’s studios in Johnston. He warmed that Democratic candidates are in danger of failing to connect with the voters the party needs to win in 2020. (Erin Murphy/Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau)

JOHNSTON — Steve Bullock says he is concerned his fellow Democratic presidential candidates are in danger of failing to connect with the very voters the party has spent the past three years trying to reclaim.

Bullock, the governor of Montana who is running for the party’s presidential nomination, said Democrats may not be talking about the right issues in order to win back support in rural areas.

“I’m concerned that a lot of the stuff that our party is at times talking about doesn’t connect with the farmer in Rippey, Iowa, or someone in Ottumwa,” Bullock said Friday during taping for this weekend’s episode of “Iowa Press” on Iowa Public Television.

“And we can’t become the party that is disconnected from people’s daily lives,” he said. “We can’t become a party that just represents coasts and urban areas.”

On the campaign trail, Bullock touts being elected governor in a state that Donald Trump won in 2016 by more than 20 percentage points. He notes, too, that he has overseen the passage of progressive legislation like Medicaid expansion and campaign finance reform.

He also talks about the need for Democrats to fare better with voters in rural areas and rural states and says his experience as governor of Montana makes him qualified to do just that.

“We’ve got to recognize about two-thirds of the counties in this country lost businesses over the last decade and folks are saying, ‘Look, I shouldn’t have to leave my church or synagogue or my school just to make a decent living,’ ” Bullock said. “So recognizing that the challenges in rural areas are going to be different at times than the challenges in urban areas, but the values are the same.”

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Bullock said the wrong type of candidate for president could not only cost Democrats an opportunity to take back the White House but also could hurt state and local races on the ballot.

“If we have somebody as our nominee that rural America feels disconnected to, or that they’re not talking about the issues and the challenges of the here and now, it makes it that much harder for that Iowa legislator or legislative candidates,” Bullock said.

Bullock said his plan for addressing issues in rural areas includes changing course on the Trump administration’s trade policies, beginning loan programs for young farmers, investing in Medicaid to ensure rural hospitals stay open, and creating an Office of Rural Affairs that would coordinate efforts across federal government agencies.

“Iowa Press” airs on Iowa Public Television on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at noon; at 8:30 a.m. Saturday on IPTV World; or online at iptv.org/iowapress.

Comments: (563) 383-2492; erin.murphy@lee.net

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