It's a life change few would consider.
After decades in the corporate world, including for an innovative technology company, Steve Daines of Bozeman, Montana ran for Congress in 2012. Only two years later, he upped the ante last November and contended for the seat of a popular retiring U.S. senator … winning by a landslide.
What drives this family man, a fifth generation Montanan, to serve in Washington, DC — over 2,000 miles from his home? In an exclusive interview, Daines shares what inspired him to enter public office and how his faith guides him to prioritize policy issues.
Bound4LIFE: Senator Daines, you have spoken often of your family's heritage of faith. Was there a point growing up when faith became real to you personally?
Steve Daines: I was grateful to grow up in a Christian home, for my parents to pass on their faith to me — a legacy of faith that was passed on from my grandfather, a Lutheran minister.
Did you grow up in a Christian home?
Bound4LIFE: Yes, I did, absolutely.
Steve Daines: It is something we can be thankful for, that is a true blessing as a child. But eventually people have to put their own weight on that faith.
For me, leaving home for college was a time I came back to, What do I really think? What is my belief system? As I entered college, I got involved in some Bible studies through The Navigators ministry on campus. That's where I started putting my own weight on my faith; it was a gradual process.
Bound4LIFE: How does church remain a part of your family's life together — and has your level of involvement changed since you began serving as a U.S. Senator?
Steve Daines: One thing I tell my scheduler is Sundays are a day I want protected for my family and I to be together. About the only exception I will make for that is if there's a veterans event; I'm willing to show up, because of what our veterans have given for our country, their personal sacrifice.
I get back to Montana nearly every weekend. I attend church back in my home church in Bozeman, virtually every Sunday. My wife Cindy and I, and our children, are actively involved at Springhill Church. People ask me sometimes, "What is your home church in DC?" And I say, "I have a home church back at home!"
Bound4LIFE: Not long ago, you left a thriving global software company to become a legislator. What compelled you to run for public office?
Steve Daines: There were a number of things that came together. I remember speaking at a Focus on the Family event in Colorado Springs along with Dr. James Dobson and his wife Shirley [now of Family Talk]. We got to watch an early pre-screening of the film Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilberforce.
That movie had a great impact on my wife and I. We saw how he spent years battling slavery, the key issue for him to move into public service. It started to raise some questions in our minds, Should we consider moving into public service as well? So the story of William Wilberforce was an important part of that journey.
Importantly, my wife Cindy was a step ahead of me in this journey. She wanted to do this, and thought it would be right for us. We do this as a couple; I don't do this as myself. It was a family decision at the start and today they stand — not behind me, but with me. We stand together as a family.
When a Senator takes the oath of office and you're sworn in, you put your hand on a Bible. Most of the time it's a big Bible, so you see this little hand on a big Bible. If you look at any of my swearing-in pictures, you can't see it because I've got my hand on my grandfather's little Bible; he received it when he was confirmed as a pastor in a small Montana town.
Bound4LIFE: Do you find it difficult being a person of faith on Capitol Hill?
Steve Daines: I think it would be more difficult on Capitol Hill if I was not a person of faith.
For example, James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all."
We need wisdom here as lawmakers, so I pray for wisdom.
I'm grateful that I have faith that provides perspective. This is important work, but I always have to remember that there is even a higher calling: serving God. We serve our country, but ultimately I serve God in what I do day to day. It would be difficult to serve here without being grounded in faith.
Our Founding Fathers saw that our rights were not granted to us by our government. The unalienable rights we have to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness come from our Creator with a capital "C" — from God. The government did not provide those rights, the government's role is to protect those rights.
Many have forgotten where these rights came from, and need to be reminded.
Bound4LIFE: You speak of the right to life. You recently joined a bipartisan group of senators led by Senator Joni Ernst to call for the Department of Health & Human Services to investigate Planned Parenthood. What made you take this stand?
Steve Daines: How can anyone watch these videos and not be outraged at what they contain? An important role we have here in Congress is oversight, so it's vital we investigate Planned Parenthood.
Joni Ernst is a good friend of mine here on the Hill; we were elected together this past November. I have great respect for Joni, and I'm very glad to see her leading in this effort. She is pulling us together so we can get to the bottom of what was going on here.
I support defunding Planned Parenthood; that is something I would like to see happen, and I will continue to fight for that on the floor of the United States Senate.
Bound4LIFE: On June 11, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate; you are one of 45 Senators currently co-sponsoring the bill. Why is this policy important for our nation to consider?
Steve Daines: We must fight for the most vulnerable in our society: the elderly, the disabled, and the unborn. They do not have a voice here on Capitol Hill. Their right to life is protected by our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, so we speak up.
This is a bill that a majority of the American people are behind, banning late-term abortions after 20 weeks when a baby can feel pain. This is ground that we can fight on and win — it's good policy, and it's the right battle to be fighting right now on Capitol Hill. We need to try to get legislation passed and on the President's desk.
Bound4LIFE: Even though a companion bill passed the House with overwhelming support, the Pain-Capable bill is unlikely to be signed by the President and enacted as law. What are the goals of this legislation?
Steve Daines: Let's go back to the story of William Wilberforce, who fought slavery for years in England. Similarly, this is a battle that has been ongoing for decades, and we must continue in the fight.
When will we finally win this victory? I don't know — all I know is, we must continue to be a voice for those who don't have a voice. It's a long-term battle.
In part 2 next week, Senator Daines shares how to present a persuasive pro-life defense, his thoughts on the First Amendment Defense Act and more.