Races To Watch: Montana’s Bullock is Bullish in the Senate Battle of the Steves

Montana’s Senate race is a toss-up, according to the Cook Political Report, because the popular Democratic governor, Steve Bullock, has managed to put incumbent Senator Steve Daines on the defensive over a deal he orchestrated in which Montana ranchers were to supposed sell $200m in beef to China’s second-largest company, JD.com, and the company was going to build a $100m processing plant in Montana.  But neither the contract nor the plant materialized and Bullock has capitalized on it.  Bullock took a pragmatic approach to climate change during his brief Presidential run, as he told us last year.  His Senate campaign web site similarly says,By making smart policy decisions, we can mitigate the effects of climate change on agriculture, the environment, and public lands, while protecting jobs and investing in new industries.”

Why This Matters:  Democrats need every seat they can get.  According to the Washington Post, the latest polls show the race effectively tied, with Daines trailing Bullock 49 percent to 47 percent, well within the margin of error. The beef deal with JD.com is one of many the President announced with great fanfare in 2017, only to have the Chinese renege, making a mockery of the White House’s promises, and letting down America’s agriculture sector again.

Bullock Believes, Daines Denies Climate Change

Bullock is outspoken on climate change because its impacts are evident in his state, but this position is not without its risks — much of the state’s tax revenue comes from coal and other mining operations.  Bullock had Montana join the US Climate Coalition to keep us “in” the Paris Agreement and developed a Climate Solutions Plan for the state.  The Republicans were so concerned about Bullock running against Gaines that, according to Inside Climate News, they secretly paid $100,000 for a signature drive to get a ticket-splitting Green Party candidate on the 2020 ballot – in the hopes of taking away Bullock votes.  Fortunately, the courts eventually scuttled that effort.  Daines, meanwhile, follows the Republican party’s climate skepticism — he called the Paris climate agreement “a bad deal” and called climate proposals “radical” policies that would “undermine” freedoms that “are important to most Montana residents.

Where’s The Beef Deal?

Daines’ office worked with China’s General Chamber of Commerce, which The Washington Post described as “a Chinese government-funded ‘united front’ organization devoted to advancing the ruling Communist Party’s interests.”  The “deal” was “signed” by President Trump but in fact, there were no firm contracts just a “gesture of support” — besides the Montana beef deal, multibillion-dollar energy projects planned for West Virginia and Alaska never happened.  Bullock recently tweeted his critique: “In 2017, Sen. Daines said he secured a ‘landmark’ beef deal with China for Montana ranchers. Three years later, there’s little evidence Montana beef was sold to China through that deal. So after years of broken promises, Montanans want to know: Where’s the beef, @SteveDaines?”

To Go Deeper:  Read more about Bullock on climate in Inside Climate News’ excellent story here.

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