Democratic presidential candidate Steve Bullock pitches jobs plan in Salt Lake City

By Lisa Riley Roche | Posted - Jul. 25, 2019 at 6:27 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, one of two dozen Democrats running for president, rolled out his plan to bring "Good Jobs to All Americans" Thursday at the National Governors Association's summer meeting.

Some 25 governors from around the country are gathered at the Grand America Hotel for the three-day meeting set to end Friday with a version of Donny and Marie Osmond's Las Vegas show.

Bullock, the outgoing chairman of the governors association, told the Deseret News that ensuring the country's workers are prepared for emerging technology jobs is also an issue in the crowded Democratic presidential race.

"I think a lot of the division and challenges we have right now in our country is because the economy is not working for everyone," he said. "Part of what I've been talking about is everybody ought to have a fair shot at a better future."

That's what governors are working towards, too, Bullock said after an hourlong discussion that featured technology experts as well as governors, including Gov. Gary Herbert, who spoke of the need to address intergenerational poverty.

"I know every single one of the governors are certainly grappling with, 'How do we create greater opportunities," Bullock said. "We can’t just give speeches. We have to do things."

His plan, presented as a guide for governors, was developed during his term as the association's chairman. He will be succeeded Friday by the current vice chairman, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican.

As part of Bullock's yearlong initiative, workshops were held in Pittsburgh, Las Vegas and Des Moines, along with a "Solutions Summit" in Whitefish, Montana, in May, a week after he jumped into the presidential race.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Samantha Zager issued a statement calling it "amusing that Steve Bullock is participating in the National Governors Association summer meeting despite shirking his own duties to run as president."

Zager said Bullock, who is campaigning in Iowa and other key presidential election states, "can pretend all he wants, but ultimately he is a no-name governor whose campaign is going nowhere, and he's be better off returning to Montana."

In the Grand America Hotel ballroom, Bullock was joined on stage by Malcolm Frank, Cognizant Digital Business president, and Jamie Merisotis, Lumina Foundation president and CEO for a discussion about readying for the future economy.

Frank said that some 12% of jobs will be lost in the coming decade to what he termed the fourth industrial revolution, driven by an increasing digital world. He offered tips on how states can attract technology-based business.

Those include revitalizing older areas of cities to make them more attractive to young employees while "losing the ties" and suits that represent corporate culture, producing trained workers through the school system and offering diversity.

Merisotis said "work is changing in profound ways," but states need to stop spending time worrying about what jobs will be lost and what jobs are coming and instead prepare a workforce that can deal with ongoing change.

With human knowledge all but doubling on a daily basis, he said workers are going to have to get used to a new cycle of learning and working that repeats over and over as new skills are needed.

Utah's governor asked for suggestions on dealing with intergenerational poverty.

Herbert said while all governors are likely concerned about expanding job opportunities, the children of the chronically poor face special challenges because "it's not somebody being laid off, it's generation to generation."

Frank labeled the issue "a nasty one because these folks tend to be forgotten," and said the education system can help by better preparing workers to not only acquire new skills, but to be able make such shifts more quickly.

Bullock said rural areas, often hardest hit by economic downturns, also need to be taken into consideration.

"It is a different world now," he said. "Rural isn't just a place like Montana. Rural is in New York, it's in every place across our various states."

The Montana governor, the only Democrat in the presidential race who won in 2016 in a state that went for Republican President Donald Trump, is trailing in the polls and didn't make the cut for the first presidential debates in June.

He will be on the stage next Tuesday for the first of two CNN Democratic presidential debates, alongside a roster that includes Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigeig.

The frontrunner, former Vice President Joe Biden, and California Sen. Kamala Harris, who clashed in last month's debate, are among those Democratic presidential contenders debating on Wednesday.

"I guess relative to the rest of the field I got in late," Bullock said. "But I actually had a job to do. My legislature was still meeting and I wanted to make sure to get Medicaid expansion reauthorized."

That's part of his presidential pitch, offering something different as a red-state westerner in a party that he said too often focuses only on turning out "pockets of blue" voters.

"I bring a perspective outside Washington, D.C.," he said. "I have a divided government. My legislature is 60% Republican, yet we still get meaningful things done."

Bullock said there's still time for him to advance in the race by "talking about hopefully, the issues that really matter in people’s lives. Because I think at times, debates and things become detached with the challenges that people are facing."

His strategy, he said, is to "go all over, show up all over a state. When you think about it, most people’s lives are too busy or challenging for politics. … They don’t care that much. But they do care about hoping the government can work for them."

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Lisa Riley Roche

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