CNN town halls with Steve Bullock and Bill de Blasio

6:44 p.m. ET, August 25, 2019

Bullock: We can be carbon neutral "by 2040 or even earlier"

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said he believed that reaching net zero carbon emissions could happen within the next couple decades.

"The scientists say we have to be net zero — carbon neutral, effectively — as a world by 2050. I think we can do it by 2040 or even earlier," he said.

Bullock said the first step toward addressing the climate crisis would be to rejoin the the Paris climate accord, the 2015 agreement among more than 200 nations to combat climate change.

The United States ratified the agreement, but President Donald Trump announced in June 2017 that the US would withdraw from it — although it cannot formally leave until November 2020.

Bullock went on to slam the Republican party, saying the GOP is "literally ... the only major political party that denies that the climate change is real and human caused."

"We can't wait another 35 years. We need to take immediate and durable steps," he said.

Moments later, Bullock was asked about the coal industry, and if the economic gains the fossil fuel industry brings to his home state of Montana outweigh the climate crisis.

"I think we have to address the climate crisis and we can," he said.

He added that he's the only candidate whose state is directly impacted by the Keystone Pipeline. The next phase of the controversial oil system would run right through Montana.

6:34 p.m. ET, August 25, 2019

Bullock defends supporting the death penalty in "very, very limited" cases

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock explained his support for the death penalty in “very, very limited” cases, a view that is out of step with many of his 2020 Democratic opponents.

“I don’t think like the Oklahoma City bomber or someone that goes into a house of worship (and kills) congregants in prayer and the only reason of killing them is because of the color of their skin, I think they forfeited their right to comfortably live the rest of their life,” Bullock said.

Bullock said he understands that the death penalty has a “disproportionate” impact on people of color.

“I went to law school because I wanted to believe that justice was blind and not based on income,” he said. “And I’ll do everything I can to make sure that’s the case.”

But Bullock said he still supports the death penalty “only in very, very limited areas like domestic terrorism.”

6:16 p.m. ET, August 25, 2019

Bullock blames NRA for lack of action on guns

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock blamed the National Rifle Association, an organization that he said was just a “gun safety and hunting organization” when he was young, for stalling any movement on gun control legislation.

Bullock only came out in favor of universal background checks in 2018, far later than most Democrats, and he comes from a state with a proud culture of gun ownership and hunting.

But Bullock explained on Sunday that he softened his position on guns because of the 2018 shooting at Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead and listening to his children after the shooting.

“I’ll give you a reason why we can’t look at it as just a public health issue. In fact, I’ll give you 30 million reasons. That’s how much the NRA spent to make sure that Donald Trump was elected,” Bullock said. “When I was growing up, the NRA used to be a gun safety and hunting organization. Now it’s a dark money field, political organization, that does nothing than drive us apart.”

Bullock maintained his opposition to mandatory buybacks of assault weapons, telling CNN that “we can get (to a safer country) without a mandatory buyback system.”

“What I propose is voluntary buybacks,” Bullock said.

6:08 p.m. ET, August 25, 2019

Steve Bullock is wearing cowboy boots tonight

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock's town hall just kicked off, and he walked on stage wearing cowboy boots.

He said the footwear were a gift for his "year of service to our nation's governors."

5:50 p.m. ET, August 25, 2019

These are Bullock's current positions on top voting issues

ALEX EDELMAN/AFP/Getty Images
ALEX EDELMAN/AFP/Getty Images

Steve Bullock served as Montana's attorney general before being elected governor in 2012.

His presidential campaign announcement video highlighted his successful efforts to expand Medicaid, his support for same-sex marriage and his bipartisan effort to ban dark money from the state's politics.

Here's where the Democrat stands on key issues:

Climate crisis: Bullock has praised the Green New Deal, the broad plan to address renewable-energy infrastructure and climate change proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, for “building up conversation” on combating climate change, but he’s stopped short of endorsing it. “We can do better with a more focused plan,” he told The Washington Post in June. The governor supports rejoining the Paris climate accord, the landmark 2015 deal on global warming targets that Trump has pledged to abandon, and believes many of the goals can be achieved more quickly than outlined in the accord. Bullock believes the US can reach zero emissions before 2050.

The economy: The governor has said he would end Trump’s trade war, which he says hurts rural communities. Bullock’s campaign told The Atlantic that he now opposes how the Trans-Pacific Partnership — an 11-nation trade deal negotiated under Obama that the Trump administration has withdrawn from — was written. Still, a campaign spokesman told The Atlantic he believes the withdrawal has left America “on the sidelines.” Bullock supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Education: To make college affordable, Bullock has proposed freezing college tuition in Montana and floated reducing the federal student loan interest rate. He also supports expanding eligibility for Pell grants. Bullock has said he believes in providing a path so two-year college is “available for all” but noted in a May interview that “we’ve also got to recognize that not everybody’s going to go to college,” pushing instead for professionally recognized certificates and apprenticeships.

Health care: Bullock opposes Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ "Medicare for All" proposal, which would create a government-run health care plan and essentially eliminate the private insurance industry. Instead, Bullock says, the Affordable Care Act should be improved. He supports a buy-in public option for health care while keeping private insurance.

Immigration: Bullock has advocated continuing Obama-era protections for undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as minors, and he is one of 11 governors who urged Congress in 2017 to support these immigrants. In 2018, after Trump signed a memo to send National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border, Bullock refused to deploy guardsmen.

Gun violence: Bullock supports banning so-called assault weapons and limiting access to high-capacity magazines. He supports universal background checks and so-called “red flag” laws, which allow families and police to petition a judge to temporarily block someone’s access to firearms if there is credible concern they might hurt themselves or others. Additionally, he supports age minimums for those who can purchase firearms.

5:42 p.m. ET, August 25, 2019

What you need to know about Bill de Blasio

 Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
 Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio entered the Democratic presidential race hoping to convince voters that he, as the head of the nation’s largest city, was the most accomplished progressive in the field of hopefuls.

De Blasio has seen more success than some – he qualified for both the June and July debates – but the mayor is still looking for a breakout moment to move him from the pack of candidates hovering under 1% support.

De Blasio has looked to tout a slate of policy wins in New York – namely guaranteeing universal pre-K and a $15 minimum wage – as examples of what he would do for the nation as president.

De Blasio has been mayor of New York since 2014, when he overwhelmingly won the office in the 2013 election. The mayor, in another convincing win, won reelection in 2017. Prior to being mayor, de Blasio was the city’s public advocate and a member of the New York City Council.

The mayor has been far more aggressive than most of his opponents, regularly slamming other candidates for perceived missteps. His most frequent target is former Vice President Joe Biden, who the mayor has attacked for nostalgic comments about Southern segregationist senators and views on abortion.

The strategy has done little for the mayor, though, who looks unlikely to qualify for the Democratic National Committee debate in September.

5:34 p.m. ET, August 25, 2019

Why Steve Bullock thinks he can win over Trump voters

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a candidate who got into the race in mid-May, far later than most of his competitors, has a clear goal: Convince Democratic voters that the way to beat President Donald Trump is by nominating a Democrat who has been successful in a state that overwhelmingly supported the President in 2016.

So far, though, that argument has not been resonating. Bullock failed to qualify for the first Democratic debate. And though the governor qualified for the debate in July, he looks unlikely to qualify for the Democratic National Committee debate in September.

Bullock is a two-term governor from Montana: He won his first term in 2012, but his calling card came when he – as a Democrat – won reelection in 2016, the same year Donald Trump won Montana by 23%. 

Bullock is a lifelong Montanan, a fact he has highlighted throughout this campaign. He first ran for office in 2000, when he lost the Democratic primary for Montana attorney general. Bullock entered private practice after that loss -- including a stint working in Washington, D.C. -- before he ran, this time successfully, for attorney general in 2008. After one term as attorney general, Bullock successfully ran to become Montana's governor in 2012.

While Bullock is a more moderate Democrat – taking positions that, in large part, reflect his state’s electorate – the governor has been a leader on campaign finance reform. He also entered the 2020 race late because he worried that a presidential campaign would imperil his successful campaign to expand Medicaid in Montana.

Bullock’s campaign has focused intently on Iowa, where the governor and his team believe his brand of liberalism can resonate with rural voters throughout the state. Most polls, however, have the governor at 1% in the state.

5:20 p.m. ET, August 25, 2019

Here's what's at stake for Bullock and de Blasio

It’s now or never for Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Both men are struggling to gain traction in the 2020 race and facing the near certainty that they won’t qualify for the Democratic National Committee’s debate in September.

But the prospect of making the October debate could compel the two Democrats to forge on, so Bullock and de Blasio enter their respective CNN town halls on Sunday with a similar goal: Make a moment, seize on that moment and hope the unexpected happens and they jump in both polling and fundraising.

It’s happened before. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg was a relative unknown when he headlined his first CNN town hall in March. But a well-reviewed performance, punctuated by a number of viral moments, boosted him in the polls and filled his campaign coffers, two things that de Blasio and Bullock would welcome.

Time is of the essence for the two Democratic executives. In order to qualify for the September debate, candidates must receive contributions from at least 130,000 individuals, coming from at least 400 unique donors in 20 or more states and reach 2% in at least four DNC-approved polls by August 28.

That may be too tall of a hill to climb for either candidate – neither appear to be anywhere close to either threshold.

5:09 p.m. ET, August 25, 2019

CNN hosts town halls with Steve Bullock and Bill de Blasio tonight

CNN will host town halls with Democratic presidential candidates Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio live from New York City tonight.

CNN's Alisyn Camerota will moderate the town hall with Bullock at 6 p.m. ET. CNN's Ana Cabrera will host the town hall with de Blasio at 7 p.m. ET.

About Bullock: He participated in the first night of CNN's recent Democratic debate late last month, during which he recounted losing his nephew to gun violence as well as described his background as a union-side labor negotiatorbefore becoming his state's attorney general.

About de Blasio: The New York mayor participated in the second night of the CNN Democratic debate last month, where he was pressed on his handling of Daniel Pantaleo, the New York police officer accused of fatally choking Eric Garner in July 2014, and sparred with consistent front-runner former Vice President Joe Biden over deportations that took place during the Obama administration.