By CHRIS PETERSON
Hungry Horse News
Singer-songwriter Rob Quist kicked off his Flathead Valley campaign for Montana’s lone congressional seat at Casey’s Bar in Whitefish Monday night.
Quist, a Democrat, drew a crowd of more than 100 enthusiastic supporters.
Quist may be a newcomer to the political arena, but his singing and songwriting career is sure to give him name recognition across the state.
As a youth, he graduated from Cut Bank High school, helped lead the basketball team to a state B championship and then played hoops for the University of Montana. At the UM, he co-founded the Mission Mountain Wood Band and toured nationwide for 12 years, performing at colleges and concert venues across the country and charting original songs on Billboard’s top 100 songs. In 1979 he married Bonni Willows of Hungry Horse. The couple live on a horse ranch in Creston where they raised their children, Guthrie and Halladay.
Quist said that Montanans agree more than they disagree.
“We know life under the Big Sky has to work for everyone, or it doesn’t work for anyone,” he said.
He railed against the GOP’s recently unveiled healthcare plan, designed to replace Obamacare.
“Montanans have the right to a healthy and productive life,” he said. “It shouldn’t bankrupt families.”
He said the GOP plan would live many families in Montana without health insurance. He said Obamacare needs to be strengthened, not replaced.
He said if Obamacare is repealed and replaced as the replacement law stands now, “pick 10 people you’re willing to let pass away.”
Quist also opposed the sale or transfer of federal lands to the states. He said Montana doesn’t have the resources to manage them.
“Once you lose them, it’s impossible to get them back,” he said, adding, “It’s nothing more than theft against our children and grandchildren.”
Quist will face Republican Greg Gianforte and Libertarian Mark Wicks in a special election this May. Gianforte is coming off a loss to Steve Bullock in the race for governor last fall.
But with Congressman Ryan Zinke now the Secretary of Interior, the political newcomers will vie for Montana’s lone congressional seat.
Gianforte recently charged that Quist supported a gun registry. Quist responded Monday that he was talking about fully automatic weapons. He said he growing up on a ranch that guns were a way of life.
“I’m married to a virtual Annie Oakley,” he said. “I’m definitely for Second Amendment rights.”
Having said that, he said closure of the gun show loophole should be considered. Right now, gun owners can buy and sell firearms at gun shows without performing a background check. Gun sellers said having to perform background checks a gun shows would be onerous, if not impossible.
He also opposed slashing regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Montanans want clean water and clean air,” he said.