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Bullock departs for Detroit and his first presidential primary debate

Posted at 8:21 PM, Jul 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-29 22:21:43-04

HELENA — Gov. Steve Bullock on Monday hopped a flight to Detroit, where he’ll appear in his first presidential primary debate on Tuesday — and, as he put it, tell people “who I am, what I’ve done and what I want to do” as president.

Bullock will be one of 10 Democratic presidential candidates on the debate stage at the Fox Theatre Tuesday evening — including leading candidates like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg.

The two-hour, nationally televised debate, which begins at 6 p.m., will be Bullock’s first debate appearance during the presidential campaign. He failed to qualify for the first one in Miami last month.

“I hope I get that opportunity, among the large field, to really be able to give that introduction of how we’ve done things in Montana and how it’s actually worked to impact people’s lives,” he told MTN News Monday about an hour before he got on his flight to Detroit. “I think I bring something unique, as someone who is not from the coasts … and the way that not only I was elected, but the way I’ve got things done.”

During the campaign, Bullock has touted his ability to win election in a state that President Trump won by 20 percentage points in 2016 and work with Republicans to pass progressive legislation in Montana.

Bullock has been preparing for the debate with some help from local attorneys he knows, who have acted as surrogates for his competitors in mock debates held in Helena in recent days and weeks.

But Bullock said some of his best preparation has been meeting voters on the campaign trail, who’ve reminded him they want to hear how the candidates will make the political system work to benefit the average person.

“I was struck at one of the meet-and-greets when a retired teacher said, in that first debate, `I didn’t hear anyone providing my voice,’” he said. “Her voice was wanting to have someone who can kind of connect with the challenges of everyday people.”

The pressure is on for Bullock and other marginal candidates to perform well this week, for qualification requirements for the next debate in September will be tougher.

He qualified for this week’s debate by scoring at least 1 percent on several polls.

Other candidates on the stage with Bullock Tuesday are Beto O’Rourke of Texas, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Ten more Democratic candidates will debate on Wednesday night in Detroit, including former Vice President Joe Biden and California Sen. Kamala Harris.