Independent Vermont senator and former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has announced he is willing to travel to Montana to stump for Democratic candidate Rob Quist in his effort to fill the at-large seat left vacant when former representative Ryan Zinke (R) was tapped to become secretary of the Department of the Interior by President Donald Trump.
“Sen. Bernie Sanders has offered to travel to Montana to help boost insurgent House candidate Rob Quist, who is running in a surprisingly competitive special election for the at-large seat previously held by Ryan Zinke, who is now secretary of the department of interior,” writes the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim. “The stop would be part of a national tour Sanders is doing with Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez after Easter.”
DEMS CAN WIN! Rob Quist’s Race in Montana is VERY Winnable! https://t.co/2WYJX2LxBV
— Muckmaker (@RealMuckmaker) April 6, 2017
A previous Huffington Post article referred to Quist as “the legendary banjo-strumming folk singer with a populist streak and a penchant for public service.”
Democratic activist Casey Bailey helped organize party members to find ways to push back against Trump and his administration after the November elections. Bailey and other state Democrats saw Zinke’s move to the Department of the Interior as an opportunity to elect another Democrat to Congress, but they did not expect Quist to rise to the top of the list of possible contenders.
As Grim and Huffington Post contributor Alexander C. Kaufman explain:
“Democrats chose their nominee at a state convention, where, as the first ballot turned to the second and then third, it gradually became apparent that Quist was deadly serious. He had barnstormed the state, urging locals to set up county parties, get active and come vote for him at the state convention. Bailey, whose journey into political activism had begun with a simple Facebook page, found himself a delegate at the gathering. The 37-year-old organic grain farmer cast his vote for Quist, who won on the fourth ballot.”
Rob Quist has regularly been drawing hundreds of people to his rallies, even in conservative parts of the state.
“We’re a very Republican, red, conservative area,” Bailey said when asked about attendance at the rallies. “I was like, ‘Holy cow!'”
Bernie Sanders has endorsed Rob Quist via Our Revolution, the political organization he founded after losing the Democratic primary to rival Hillary Clinton last year.
“The idea that we have a major political party today, which has essentially given up on half of the country is beyond absurd. It is pathetic, because many of those states are some of the states in the most economic distress,” Bernie Sanders said. “My impression is [Quist]’s a very strong candidate who stands up for working people, understands that we need a government that represents all of us and not the one percent. So if we can be of help to Quist, happy to do that as well.”
— Kelly Kortum (@KellyKortum) April 6, 2017
Quist, who endorsed Sanders during the primary, benefits from unusually high name recognition for a first-time candidate in the state but Republicans are trying to paint him as too liberal, often noting his endorsement of Sanders.
Quist’s platform, however, might make him palatable to moderate conservatives and independents as well as progressive Democrats. While he advocates for reproductive rights, LGBT rights, equal pay, the Affordable Care Act, and the arts, he also supports policies that could have an appeal across the aisle, such as protecting the Second Amendment, calling for tax reform, promising to protect veterans’ interests, and pushing for more equitable treatment of ranchers and farmers.
The special election will be held on May 25. If the race is as tight as some Democratic activists suggest, then Bernie Sanders stumping for Rob Quist could possibly help put Quist over the top.
[Featured Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]