The Dude has found his man.
“He’s a good man and a great leader,” said Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges, describing his good friend Steve Bullock in a statement to The Daily Beast.
Bullock, the governor of Montana, announced his bid for the 2020 nomination on Tuesday and has pitched himself as the only Democrat in a field of nearly two dozen contenders who has won twice in Trump country. While his campaign is less than 48 hours old, it is becoming something of a cattle call for Hollywood actors, producers, and talent managers who want to see their candidate plucked out of obscurity.
For Bridges, Bullock is a natural choice. The actor was active on the governor’s 2016 re-election campaign, even holding a concert for him in Bullock’s hometown of Missoula.
“He has long Montana ties,” Bullock said, adding they became close while working together on childhood hunger issues. So close, Bullock said, he talked openly with Bridges about his prospective campaign well before the official launch, which has been months in the works.
“He’s been very encouraging of me doing this,” he said.
Bridges isn’t Bullock’s only famous supporter. In fact, he’s caught the attention of a hodgepodge of elite donors who have been attracted to the Montana Democrat’s blend of progressive and pragmatic politics.
“Without a doubt Governor Steve Bullock is my favorite Democrat!” Lyle Lovett, a four-time Grammy Award winning country music star, told The Daily Beast in a statement.
At first glance, Bullock, another middle aged white guy in a historically diverse field of candidates, may seem like a puzzling choice for the moneyed actor and producer set. But Hollywood loves an underdog and Bullock’s story is downright cinematic.
Born in Missoula, he “struggled just to get by,” he said in his campaign launch video.
A child raised by a single mother, Bullock eventually rose to become the state’s top executive, giving progressives on red terrain a leader whose ideology matched their own. He and his wife Lisa are now raising their family in his childhood home, promising a chance at a vague but optimistic “fair shot” for future generations under Bullock 2020.
A supporter of popular socially liberal positions like marriage equality and abortion rights, his agenda mirrors his rivals from the Democratic-friendly coasts. Yet he managed to earn a second term during unfavorable conditions at the height of Trump’s election.
“I go all across our state’s 147,000 square miles and look for common ground to get things done,” he said. “That’s how I was able to bring Democrats and Republicans together.”
But Bullock is not the only 2020 aspirant attracting celebrities’ help. In the first quarter of 2019, Sen. Kamala Harris raised nearly $290,000 from entertainment sources, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, both younger white men who recently skyrocketed to national fame, have seen their fair share of A-list attention, as has Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). Former Vice President Joe Biden reportedly brought in $700,000 at a California fundraiser co-hosted by DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg earlier this month.
But behind the scenes, Bullock’s been courting the producer too. Katzenberg donated $5,000 to his Big Sky Values PAC in 2018.
“I’ve had great conversations with Jeffrey Katzenberg,” he said, and “with Scooter Braun as well,” broadening the entertainment scope to include a high-level talent manager.
Braun is most famously known for his connection to singers Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, whom he represents. Demi Lovato hired him last week.
“Dreams came true today for me. I officially have a NEW MANAGER!!!” she posted on Instagram about Braun.
Braun gave $2,800 to the Big Sky Values PAC in February, while television producer Matt Pyken donated $1,500 in 2017. Former NBC Commissioner David Stern gave money to his governor bid.
Bullock enters the presidential race virtually unknown nationally, announcing months after most top-tier Democrats and two other governors. He’ll have to scramble to reach the Democratic National Committee’s series of donor and polling requirements to qualify for the first debate in June. And grabbing significant attention from the national media will be particularly important.
Still, he plans on plowing past others even with the odds stacked against him. And he believes a quirky coalition of backers beyond the Treasure State can only work in his favor.
One actress in his orbit said she is particularly qualified to speak in support of the true-blue Democrat—she played in one of his favorite TV series.
“I was on a show that was about cowboys,” Smallville actress Cassidy Freeman told The Daily Beast in an interview.
“He definitely watched Longmire,” referring to her role in a show based on the Walt Longmire mystery novels by bestselling author Craig Johnson.
“He mistakenly thought Buffalo, Wyoming was Buffalo, New York,” she joked. “And I was like, ‘aren’t you a governor in Montana?’”
Freeman, who moved to Montana in her twenties, said she voted for Bullock in the recent governor contest and intends to vote for him in the Democratic primary. She also gave money to his re-election campaign.
“I know Steve as a man and a friend,” she said, recalling several times that he showed up at family gatherings. “He makes the time to get to know people. I’m excited to see what he can do.”