Nov. 3, 2020 U.S. Senate                                      









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+Steve Daines (R) i
Steve Bullock (D)


Plurality: 60,711 votes (10.02 percentage points)
 MT Secretary of State

The race between freshman U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R) and Gov. Steve Bullock (D) was one of the marquee races of the cycle.  After the most expensive campaign in state history, the result in November was not close as Daines prevailed by a margin of 10.01 percentage points.

Daines was elected to the Senate in 2014 after serving one term in the House.  He worked in the private sector at RightNow Technologies and earlier at Procter & Gamble and also was the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 2008.

Bullock, term-limited as governor, had recently concluded a run for the Democratic presidential nomination.  He announced his candidacy on May 14, 2019, touting his ability to win in a red state, running as a moderate, and pledging to "finally make good on the promise of a fair shot for everyone."  However, Bullock's effort failed to gain traction in the crowded field and on Dec. 2 he suspended his campaign. 

For months Bullock had faced questions about a possible Senate run.  At a CNN town hall in Aug. 2019 he said an "absolute no" to the idea.  When he ended the presidential bid, a spokeswoman stated, "While he plans to work hard to elect Democrats in the state and across the country in 2020, it will be in his capacity as a governor and a senior voice in the Democratic primary — not as a candidate for U.S. Senate."  And, speaking with reporters on Dec. 4, Bullock said of a Senate run, “I’ve made that clear, that’s just not what I want to do.”  At the time several little-known Democrats were running.  Party leaders saw Bullock as the only prospect who could defeat Daines and sought to persuade him to reverse course.  Those efforts succeeded, and on the filing deadline, Mar. 9, 2020, Bullock announced he would run for Senate after all.  Bullock did have one easy task; he tallied 95% of the vote in the June 2 primary.  However, his earlier repeated statements (13 times according to Daines) that he would not run for Senate likely did not help his cause in November.

Meanwhile, on Mar. 24 reports emerged that the Montana Republican Party had engaged in some political skulduggery, paying at least $100,000 to help circulate petitions to qualify the Montana Green Party for the November ballot. 
This was done without involvement of the Green Party itself; the aim was to siphon votes from the Democratic candidates.  Five "Green" candidates qualified, including Wendie Fredrickson, a former state auditor, for U.S. Senate.  The Montana Democratic Party filed suit and the issue was finally settled in September as the courts prohibited the Secretary of State from qualifying the party for the ballot.

Daines and Bullock participated in three debates: a remote debate hosted by the Montana Broadcasters Association on Aug. 8 (>); an in-studio debate at the University of Montana in Missoula hosted by Montana PBS on Sept. 28 (>) and a remote debate hosted by the Montana Television Network on Oct. 10 (>).

Pundits said Bullock's candidacy put the seat "in play," but Montana had been leaning Republican and it was going to be a challenge for any Democrat to win statewide.  Indeed 2020 was a most difficult year for Montana Democrats.  Trump defeated Biden by 56.92% to 40.55%; Greg Gianforte won the governor's race by 54.43% to 41.56%; Republicans held the U.S. Senate and U.S. House seats; and they strengthened their control in the legislature.  

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Montana Senate race was the ninth most expensive of the 2020 cycle; spending totaled $191.1 million (or $315.60 per vote tallied).  This included $81.3 million by the campaigns and $109.8 million in outside spending (>).  The Daines campaign spent $33.5 million and the Bullock campaign $47.8 million.  Outside spending was roughly equal: $55.0 million on the Republican side and $54.8 million on the Democratic side.  Backing Daines were the Senate Leadership Fund ($24.7 million), NRSC ($14.3 million) and Americans for Prosperity Action ($3.2 million); backing Bullock were DSCC ($20.0 million), Senate Majority PAC ($16.7 million), LCV Victory Fund ($5.4 million) and Montana Hunters & Anglers Leadership Fund ($4.3 million).

Campaign Managers:
Steve Daines  Shane Scanlon
Communications director on Matt Rosendale's campaign for U.S. Senate, Apr.-Nov. 2018.  Spokesman on Greg Gianforte's campaign for Congress in the May 2017 special election.  Vice president in the Helena office of Mercury LLC starting Dec. 1, 2016.  Senior advisor and communications director for the Montana Republican Party, 2015-16.  Senior member of the communications team on Daines' 2014 campaign for U.S. Senate.  Worked for Sen. John Thune (SD) on the Senate Republican Policy Committee and the Senate Republican Conference.

Steve Bullock  Megan Simpson
(Mar. 2020) 
Iowa state director on Bullock for President, May-Dec. 2019 and started Feb. 2019 as Iowa organizing director for Bullock's Big Sky Values PAC.  Coordinated director for the Montana Democratic Party, Feb. 2018-Jan. 2019.  Community engagement director for the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, June 2017-Feb. 2018.  Public policy for Airbnb in San Francisco, June 2015-June 2017.  Coordinated director for the Alaska Democratic Party, Jan.-Dec. 2014.  Studied at the University of Iowa.


See also:
Montana Democratic Party v. Stapleton.  Supreme Court of Montana.

--.  "Republican Tries Again to get Greens Back on Montana Ballot."  AP, Sept. 13, 2020.

Mike Dennison.  "Green Party candidates to remain off Montana ballot this November."  Missoula Current, Aug. 19, 2020.

Mara Silvers.  "How Montana's Green Party found itself at the center of a political circus. Again."  Montana Free Press, July 2, 2020.

Matthew Brown.  "With his sights now on Senate, Bullock still battling Trump."  AP, June 11, 2020.

Mike Dennison.  "Big bucks from out-of-state powering Bullock, Daines Senate campaigns."  KTVH, Apr. 21, 2020.

Mike Dennison.  "MT GOP financed Green Party ballot qualification in Montana."  KTVH, Mar. 24, 2020.

Matt Volz.  "Bullock squashes talk of Senate run after presidential bid."  AP, Dec. 4, 2019.

Phil Drake.  "Bullock rejects Senate run, outlines plans as governor."  Great Falls Tribune, Dec. 4, 2019.

Reid Wilson and James Jarvis.  "Bullock drops White House bid, won't run for Senate."  The Hill, Dec. 2, 2019.