Last week, the Democratic Party announced the candidates for president who “qualify” for a debate later this month. To my surprise, that list did not include an incredibly qualified candidate who has a lot to add in this election: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.
Due to arbitrary rules, Bullock was left off the debate stage because he was busy getting things done for the folks who elected him. Rather than join the race early to build up donors, he worked through mid-May to protect Montana’s Medicaid expansion that serves almost 100,000 people.
As a legislator myself, I respect that responsibility and commitment — that’s what we should expect and demand from public servants. Yet, that delayed start has been penalized with exclusion from sharing his message on the debate stage.
He’s the only candidate who has won a state Trump won, and when I met him in Independence, his message of supporting rural communities like ours rung true — a message that’s too often lost within the Democratic discussion.
Any debate system that punishes a candidate for doing their job deserves some rethinking. If Democrats want to win back rural communities, we need a voice like Bullock’s in the discussion.
Rep. Bruce Bearinger