Presidential candidate talks student loan debt, abortion at Cafe Diem


Montana governor and then-Democratic presidential candidate Steve Bullock addresses a group of supporters at Cafe Diem on May 28. He addressed topics such as voting access and union and women’s rights.

Jake Webster

Cafe Diem was packed Tuesday with patrons, the press and campaign staff struggling to navigate a path through the venue. Presidential candidate Gov. Steve Bullock, D-Mont., entered the cafe through the back and greeted people as he made his way towards the middle.

Story County Treasurer Ted Rasmusson introduced Bullock, saying prior to being governor, he was elected attorney general of Montana.

“Most of us know Montana’s typically a red state,” Rasmusson said. “Right now nearly two-thirds of their legislature is Republican, but that has not stopped Gov. Bullock from having some amazing accomplishments over the last few years.”

After Rasmusson’s introduction, Bullock took his place in the center of the venue. Bullock spoke with a booming voice and began by acknowledging his family connections to Iowa.

“I know [presidential candidates] make all these attenuated connections to Iowa, so I won’t tell you my great-great grandparents settled in Henry county in 1850,” Bullock said. “I won’t tell you that my mother was born in Ottumwa, I won’t introduce my mother’s first cousin, Jim Clark, cause that’s not why you’re here.”

Prior to being elected to public office, Bullock was a lawyer and taught law at George Washington University. Bullock said in completing his degrees, he accumulated what would today be equivalent to $170,000 in student loan debt.

In a press gaggle after his speech, Bullock was asked what his plan is to deal with the student loan debt crisis.

“Student debt has doubled in the last decade,” Bullock said. “It’s $1.4 trillion — the average 2017 graduate has $28,000 of student loans, we’ve got to turn around and make college more affordable and accessible.

“I haven’t gotten to the point of saying here’s how we would write off 144 million dollars of student loans along the way. I’ve worked in Montana unlike what’s happened in Iowa freezing tuition 6 out of the 8 years, investing in higher [education].”

Bullock said he had a shot at achieving the American dream, saying he went from delivering newspapers to the governor’s official residence in Montana to living in it himself.

“For far too many people right now that shot no longer exists, and for far too many folks in this country we got to be honest that shot never really did exist,” Bullock said. “That’s why we’ve not only got to beat Donald Trump, but we’ve got to actually start making this economy and this political system work for all of us, not just the Trumps and the Koch brothers.”

Bullock’s campaign website makes multiple mentions of his victory in a red state while President Donald Trump was on the ballot. Bullock falsely said during his speech he was the only statewide Democratic elected official to be re-elected in a state Trump won with Trump on the ballot in 2016.

Trump carried Pennsylvania and North Carolina in 2016, while voters re-elected a Democrat to the statewide positions of auditor general and auditor, respectively.

“Bless Dubuque, it hadn’t voted Republican since Eisenhower, and we lost it there [in 2016] and you can see that county after county,” Bullock said. “If we as Democrats can’t make a connection with working people, with individuals men and women — we’re not going to win.”

Following his speech and questions from the crowd, Bullock answered questions in a press gaggle. Bullock was asked about the possibility Missouri could become the first state since the decision of Roe v. Wade without a licensed abortion clinic this week.

“I fought back every attempt from our legislature to make healthcare decisions that should be made by a woman in consultation with her doctor, and her family and faith, if she so desires,” Bullock said “We are 45 years past Roe v. Wade — we ought to have human beings promoting and protecting women’s health, not trying to tear it apart.”