Montana’s at-large congressional district special election wasn’t expected to make national headlines. The district is solidly red, with Donald Trump beating Hillary Clinton by over 20 points and incumbent Republican Ryan Zinke winning re-election to the House of Representatives by over 15. The last time a Democrat won the at-large congressional election was 1992. But Republicans are now terrified that Rob Quist, a banjo-playing folk singer, will win the special election to replace now-Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.
Rob Quist isn’t your typical mainstream party candidate. Though he has served the state as Musical and Cultural Ambassador and Arts Council member, the 69-year-old Democrat is known mainly for his award-winning music. He is also surprisingly liberal for the conservative district, unabashedly advocating for single-payer healthcare, Tribal Sovereignty, marriage equality, and the right to choose.
The Democratic Party was initially unsure of Quist’s left-wing populism, only nominating him on the fourth ballot of the Montana party convention. National Democratic organizations are still skeptical of Quist, with the DCCC, the Democratic campaign wing of the House, declining to air ads for Quist in Montana.
However, Quist has earned the support of progressives nationwide, garnering the same progressive enthusiasm Bernie Sanders did during the Democratic primaries. Hundreds attend Quist’s rallies, and Bernie Sanders himself, who won the Montana Democratic primary with 51.56% of the vote, has even offered to come to Montana to campaign for Quist.
This has left Republicans terrified. The state GOP is now fighting hard to prevent mail-in balloting for the election, as the system is often used by Democratic voters who will be unable to go to the polls for the Thursday, May 25 election. While Governor Steve Bullock used his veto power to institute mail-in only balloting, many county officials are already preparing “to print ballots, arrange polling sites and assemble thousands of poll workers,” according to southwest Montana’s Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
Polling shows that the race is far from decided. While multiple Google surveys show Quist winning with a plurality of the vote, Gravis Marketing found Quist losing to Republican Greg Gianforte by 12 points.
It’s clear both Democrats and Republicans have ample reason to stay invested in this special election. You can help flip this seat by donating to Robert Quist here!