MEQUOKETA, Iowa — When Gov. Steve Bullock hits the campaign trail as a presidential candidate, his security detail of two Montana Highway Patrol officers comes along, too — at taxpayer expense.
The Montana Republican Party, in a statement earlier this week, asked why state taxpayers “should have to swallow the cost of his executive protection when he’s out campaigning and not doing his job as governor.”
Bullock, who spent three days campaigning in Iowa this week, told MTN News that state law requires his security by state officials — whether he’s on the job or not.
“Even when I’m not working on weekends, by state law, they have to be with me,” he said Friday evening in Dubuque, Iowa. “Ultimately, if the Montana Legislature wanted to get rid of protective detail, it would make my family trips easier, I’ll tell you that.”
When he arrived Saturday for a campaign visit in Mequoketa, Iowa, he also was greeted by a member of the Iowa Highway Patrol, which pitches in to help on security for visiting governors.
During the 2019 Legislature, Republican state Rep. Forrest Mandeville of Columbus sponsored a bill that would have required a public official’s campaign to reimburse the state for any costs incurred by any other state employee taking part in “electioneering” or political fundraising.
That bill died in committee in March — but it wouldn’t have affected Bullock’s security detail, because it had an exception for “any sworn peace officer acting in an official capacity to provide security.”
Some of Bullock’s regular staff accompanied him on this week’s campaign, but said they were not getting paid by the state for their time.
Bullock wrapped up a three-day tour of Iowa on Saturday in the eastern edge of the state, visiting Mequoketa, Clinton and Davenport. He’s scheduled to be on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
Bullock, 53, entered the presidential race on Tuesday, becoming the 21st Democratic candidate for president. There are now 23 candidates in the race.
The two-term Montana governor enters the contest as a long shot, but his staff said he’ll be spending plenty of time in Iowa in the coming months, the site of the nation’s first presidential nominating caucuses next February.
He told MTN News that the political landscape often reminds him of Montana, where candidates must travel to rural areas and meet small groups of voters first-hand.
“It’s not just the big events, it’s not just big stages, it’s actually talking to people and listening,” he said. “And I think I’ve been able to do a pretty good job of that in Montana, I think that’s what I’ll do here. How you’ll know if it pays off, is that hopefully is you get crowds and you’re talking to folks, and they say, I’ll be with you.”