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Bullock file

Gov. Steve Bullock speaks at a bill signing ceremony in May.

Montana members of the Democratic National Committee on Friday sent a letter saying Gov. Steve Bullock shouldn’t be kept off the debate stage later this month due to a recent rule change.

On Thursday the DNC said the poll Bullock used to qualify for the party’s presidential primary debate June 26-27 would no longer count.

Candidates must meet a 1% threshold in a set group of polls or get 65,000 individual campaign donors, with at least 200 each coming from 20 different states. Bullock’s campaign is now aggressively going after the donor requirement.

Bullock’s campaign cried foul Thursday, saying the change only affected him, and penalized him for entering the race late.

The governor did not announce his campaign until May 14, after the state Legislature adjourned its every-other-year session.

Delegate Mary Sexton, who signed the letter, said Friday that Bullock should have a chance to bring a rural perspective to the debate.

"I think our effort is to say this is a voice for rural areas, a voice for the West," Sexton said.

The letter echoes that, reading in part: "The recent implementation of extra qualification rules for the June debates in Miami could deny the Democratic Party a voice representing rural America, Democrats who have won red states, and our first-ever presidential candidate." It was signed by Sexton, as well as Montana DNC members Jorge Quintana, Jean Dahlman and former member Bryce Bennett, the state senator from Missoula who recently resigned to run for Secretary of State.

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The letter continues by saying Bullock shouldn't be punished for entering the race late.

"Gov. Bullock didn’t launch his presidential campaign earlier out of respect for the job we elected him to do. With a legislature which meets for just 90 days every two years he deferred gathering campaign donors and doing cable news interviews to put his public service first. We believe that dedication and hard work should be rewarded," the letter reads.

Though several high-level members of the party had tried to nudge Bullock toward a bid for the U.S. Senate and a run against Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines in 2020, Sexton said she didn't think the rule change, which only affected Bullock, was targeted at him for that reason.

"I really don't think so. Funny games are played in politics but I do not think so," Sexton said of any possible connection.

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