OTTUMWA — Gov. Steve Bullock’s visit to Ottumwa on Friday was a homecoming of sorts.
“This is the first time I’ve ever been here,” he said. “Mom was raised here.”
Bullock is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for the presidency. He said his background as a two-term governor and attorney general for Montana, a state won by Donald Trump in the 2016 election, gives him a claim his rivals for the nomination cannot match.
Bullock told an audience at Top Hat Coffee one of his biggest concerns is “the toxic influence of money” in politics. He warned that states need to take steps to limit the ability of companies to drown out voters in elections.
The stance comes close to one of the key debates among the candidates. Some have explicitly positioned themselves in opposition to large companies and what they see as the rise of a new generation of corporate barons with outsized influence. Trump has cast the position as socialism, an argument that appears to have some resonance with voters.
Bullock argued that promoting the ability of voters to have their voices heard is not socialism, and that the government has failed to prove it can do its job.
“I am a capitalist. I’m not a socialist. I don’t think everything should be free,” he said. “But I do think the way things are structured … there’s all these things that have gamed the system.”
Immigration has been a flashpoint in recent weeks. Trump has made deportation of those in the country illegally a cornerstone of his presidency. Bullock said he favors some path to legal residency, though he said it should include some sort of fine or other acknowledgement that the people involved did break immigration laws.
But much of his pitch to area residents focused on the fact he is from a state in the middle of the country, and has not been part of the Washington political stage. “You have a different perspective when you’re not in Washington, D.C. You bring a different perspective when you’re not on the coasts,” he said.
He returned to the theme later in his remarks. “D.C. in the last 20 years hasn’t even fully passed a budget. If I did that one year I’d be out of office.”