HELENA — A Democrat is entering the 2012 attorney general's race even though incumbent Democrat Steve Bullock hasn't formally announced his plans to either run again or seek the governor's office as he is considering. But indications are mounting that such a run is likely.
Jesse Laslovich, a former legislator and assistant attorney general who is currently chief legal counsel for the auditor's office that regulates insurance and securities, announced plans Thursday to run for attorney general.
Bullock is popular with Democrats, and many in the party are hoping he runs for governor since incumbent Brian Schweitzer is term-limited.
Bullock's campaign website was recently changed to let donors send in donations of up to $1,200 — even though the limit from an individual donor to an attorney general candidate is $600. Only a candidate for governor can accept donations of $1,200 among the Montana statewide offices.
On campaign finance reports filed so far, Bullock has been raising money in a way that lets him use it for a re-election effort or in a 2012 campaign for governor.
Bullock has said he may run for governor and leave the attorney general's office open, and clearly didn't feel rushed by Laslovich's announcement. A spokesman for Bullock said Thursday that no decision is coming before Labor Day.
"Steve's focus is on doing the job he was hired to do," said Kevin O'Brien. "He's exploring his options with his family and continuing to talk to Montanans about the opportunities we share as a state."
Laslovich is clearly betting that Bullock will run for governor in announcing his own candidacy on Thursday, and is not eyeing a contested primary battle with the incumbent. Laslovich praised Bullock's "extraordinary work" and said he wants to build on what Bullock has accomplished.
"For my entire career, I've fought to keep violent predators off the streets and assisted Montanans who have been scammed by unscrupulous con artists," Laslovich said in a statement. "I'm ready to put that experience to work as Montana's next attorney general."
Laslovich, who lives in Helena, said he wants to set up a registry of those convicted of embezzling so employers can easily check potential employees.
Republican state legislator Jim Shockley of Victor is running on the GOP side.
Laslovich, 30, was first elected to the Montana state House from Anaconda when he was just 20 years old. He later successfully ran for the state Senate and began working as assistant attorney general after graduating from law school.