Flathead Musician Rob Quist Launches Bid for Zinke’s Congressional Seat

Montana native will run as a Democrat in the upcoming special election

By Tristan Scott
Singer and songwriter Rob Quist performs at the Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish. Beacon File Photo

Flathead Valley musician and rancher Rob Quist has tossed his 10-gallon hat in the political ring, joining the hunt for the Democratic nomination to replace Ryan Zinke as Montana’s lone congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives.

A political newcomer who lives on a local ranch, Quist is the fourth Democrat to formally announce his intention to seek the party’s nomination, which will be made at a special nominating convention after Zinke is confirmed as President-elect Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Interior. The others seeking the nomination are Democratic legislators Amanda Curtis, Kelly McCarthy and Casey Schreiner.

Quist grew up in a ranching family in Cut Bank, rising to prominence as a musician while attending college at the University of Montana in Missoula, where he helped form the Mission Mountain Wood Band in 1971.

The band’s catalogue of country rock and bluegrass songs included hits charted on Billboard’s Top 100, and one of its earliest performances promoted the campaign of a young Max Baucus in his first race for U.S. House of Representatives.

Despite Quist’s familiarity with and to politicians — he just earned a ringing endorsement from former Gov. Brian Schweitzer — he couldn’t be more of a political outsider.

“I’m so far outside of this thing, even I didn’t know I was running,” Quist joked.

But Quist says his commitment to represent Montana as the state’s lone Congressman is firm, and that he decided it was time to serve his home state in a different capacity.

“I am not a politician, and performing in concert halls is different than serving in the halls of Congress, but I will be a unique voice for Montana,” he said.

Schweitzer, who had no political experience when he first ran for U.S. Senate in 2000, highlighted Quist’s outsider status as a feather in his cowboy hat.

“Rob Quist has not spent the last 30 years preparing a run for Congress. He is a political outsider. Rob has told Montana’s story through song for 30 years and has been in every little and big town in Montana,” Schweitzer said in a statement. “He understands Montana. We hunt, fish and camp, we work hard and we help our neighbors. Who better than Rob Quist to stand for and up for Montana in Washington, D.C.?”

On the issues, Quist pledged to protect Social Security and Medicare, safeguard public lands, develop new energy technologies, streamline and simplify the tax code so it applies to everyone, provide higher pay for teachers, support labor and unions, and help farmers and ranchers obtain higher prices for their products.

Quist has served on the Montana Arts Council for 11 years, on the Board of the Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation of America for six years; has worked with the Montana Department of Commerce as an ambassador to Montana’s sister state in Kumamoto, Japan; served as spokesman and advocate for the Montana Food Bank, and recently received a grant from the Office of Public Instruction to develop anti- bullying programs and a “Native Oral Traditions” program to enhance the arts in our public school systems and promote understanding of our Native Peoples.

Quist, and his wife, Bonni, have two grown children, Guthrie and Halladay Quist, who are also involved in education and the arts.

“I have worked with our state government and many of our state’s organizations and citizens to promote harmony, cooperation and a common vision for our state,” according to a press release. “I feel that I am uniquely qualified for this role because I have spent a lifetime traveling the state working with and getting to know the concerns and the needs of my fellow Montanans. This is a time of great polarity in our nation and I feel that my skills as a communicator and a consensus builder working for all Montanans could be an asset for our state on a national level.”

For more information about Rob Quist and his campaign visit www.RobQuistforMontana.com.

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