Candidates for the upcoming special election to fill Montana’s lone house seat have hit the campaign trail. Democratic candidate Rob Quist held a campaign kickoff in Whitefish Monday night.
Casey’s Bar and Grill in downtown Whitefish is usually a weekend night club, but on Monday night, more than 100 people fill the dance floor to hear hometown candidate Quist at an event hosted by the Flathead Democratic Party.
"They say that one of the keys for winning is to lose the Flathead by the least margin possible," Quist said. "We want to turn that around. We want to win the Flathead Valley!"
Many people here know Quist personally He ranches in Creston, and toured the state as frontman for the Mission Mountain Wood Band, and he has a kind of rock star appeal. When he stumps about the Affordable Care Act, people cheer him on, as though singing along to the chorus.
"If you want to repeal the ACA, you have to pick 10 people that you're willing to let pass away. that's the importance of this," says Quist.
Quist says he doesn’t support Trumpcare as it’s currently written. He also says he’ll be a supporter of small businesses and will steadfastly oppose the transfer of public land, before leaving the stage to speak one-on-one with nearly everyone in the room.
Frank Toller of Whitefish says Quist’s political experience, or lack thereof, isn’t nearly as important to him as who Quist is as a person:
"You bring your value system to your votes and to your work in Congress, and value-based decisions are the most important decisions that a person can make," Toller says.
Elinor Pulcini and her daughter, Rafaella, happened to be in town from Bozeman. They also say Quist’s political inexperience isn’t a deal breaker. Here’s Elinor:
"He's lobbied for Montana Arts Council, he’s traveled the state. He’s done a lot of stuff for the state. Even though he doesn’t probably have direct political experience, I think he has a lot of good experience working with people, which is an important aspect of being a politician," says Pulcini.
Karen Danberg of Whitefish sips a drink at a high-top table against the wall. She tells me 20 years ago, she voted Republican, but since retiring from the Army, she switched parties:
"I loved the Republicans when I was active duty for 20 years, cuz they gave me raises. But as a vet, that's when I switched parties, because Democrats care about us vets."
She says she’ll vote for Quist because he’ll use his seat to support her.
"Rob's real big on vets, unlike the Republicans, who see us as entitlements," Danberg says.
Many people I spoke to said they’re hopeful Senate Bill 305, which would allow counties to conduct mail-in only balloting, will pass. SB-305 has its first hearing in the House Judiciary Committee at the end of next week, but the bill’s sponsor is worried the committee’s Republican majority will kill the bill.
We reached out to Republican Congressional hopeful Greg Gianforte’s campaign about his schedule. They mentioned his radio appearance on Voices of Montana on the Northern Broadcasting System this morning and said he’s planning a Bozeman TV appearance soon.