Montana native Rob Quist, musician and songwriter with the band Montana and founder of the former Mission Mountain Wood Band, announced in Red Lodge that he plans to seek the Montana Democratic Party’s nomination to run as a Democrat in the special election for Rep. Ryan Zinke’s seat in the House of Representatives if Zinke is approved for a Cabinet post in the Trump administration. Can anyone energize the powerful millennial base to vote this year in Montana if Ryan Zinke vacates his U.S. Congressional seat to become Secretary of Interior? Quist is hoping to change the dynamics.
“I was asked to run by a representative of ASUM (Associated Students of University of Montana)” said Quist at Red Lodge Pizza Co on Thursday, Jan. 19. “They have great energy” he said. “Young people in Montana are about to step forward.” He said he wants to represent “all the people of Montana” and “be a unifying source.”
“We have more in common as Montanans,” he observed, warning against those who try to polarize here. “We can have discourse with respect.” He feels Montanans agree on 80-90 percent of issues-such as Montana no longer being “poverty with a view”; the need for good health care; decent care of veterans and protecting state lands.
Quist promised change, referring to a typical office flow chart with the boss and his assistants at the top. “I’m flipping that! The people have to be your boss!” he declared.
“I feel like I have connected to rural Montanans like no one else. 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.”
He said, “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.” He has visited almost every town and city.
Quist shares the personal and family challenges of farming and ranching, running a small business, health care, and social security. “I have such broad experience in Montana.” Protection of Montana’s public lands will be a “top issue.” He noted, “Traveling around the country I see many states lost their public lands, some have none and struggle to get them back. You must leave Montana to appreciate what we have; Montana is spectacular.”
Quist has been active in public service over the years for Montanans. He served as representative to Japan for the Montana Department of Commerce. He was a spokesman for the Montana Food Bank and worked on a State anti-bullying program. He has been on the board of the Montana Arts Council for 11 years.
He reflected, “I’ve been representing Montanans all my life.” Quist has traveled the world as their emissary, starting in college as a U. of M “Jubelee-er” touring the world and doing USO tours. He co-produced “Western Harmony” with a grant from UM and toured Montana during the State’s Centennial Celebration visiting over 200 communities.
Quist is an award-winning entertainer, songwriter, poet and producer whose work honors Montana and the West. He and his wife, Bonni, have two children. Quist, a Cut Bank rancher’s son, settled on a horse ranch in Creston, Montana. His family is still on the family farm. Quist said, “I’ve experienced some of the same hardships-that’s why I’m in this.” He shared a personal story. “I was just beginning the zenith of my career. I had the bus, the band and a contract offer from Warner Western. I needed a gall bladder operation. But the doctor scheduled too many operations that day.” He botched the surgery. “He sent me into a five year (downward) spiral, two years pretty disabled. Now I have a ‘pre-existing condition,’”
Later, before the ACA, he needed back surgery. Insurance refused coverage. He was forced to take social security early and lost benefits to pay for it. “It was the only solution for me and my family.”
He explained, “The original intent of the Affordable Care Act was like Medicare: you walk into a hospital, you show your card-no questions asked.” He said, “We know these forces fought it down to what we have now-large premiums for catastrophic health insurance. Major fixes were tried but were met with stonewalling.”
“Now,” he said, “they’re trying to destroy it and take us back.”
He spoke of veteran’s needs. “Health care really affects them. “We’re only beginning to face what’s happening to our veterans.” Quist sees bad fiscal proponents in Congress wasting money to look good to voters and it’s mirrored on the state level. “If Governor Bullock had not put aside that $300 million we’d be in trouble now like all the states around us.” States like Wyoming and N.D. are suffering because they have no “rainy day” fund.
Quist supports alternative energy; solar power prices are now competitive with wind power.
On social security he said, “I’ve paid into it all my life. The fact that they call it an ‘entitlement’,” he shook his head.
“I have friends living on it. I will guard it with every breath I have.”
Red Lodge resident Art Maxwell asked Quist if he would work to eliminate the cap on the amount upper income people pay into social security Quist responded, “They say it’s in trouble” but, “everyone should pay into it.”
Local resident, Judith Gregory, explained, “If you make under $100,000 you pay 6 percent to social security; if you make $200,000 you pay 2 percent!”
Quist is a native Montanan. He was student body president at Cut Bank High School and co-captain of the State Champ basketball team. He also played at U. of M. He co-founded the Mission Mountain Wood Band, touring nationwide for 12 years and appearing on national TV. His songs have made Billboard’s top 100.
Quist bases his RQGN entertainment business in Kalispell where he employs up to 15 Montanans. He is “keenly aware” of the challenges faced by small business owners.
Quist ended with some songs including “Montana”, the “heart of the “Golden West.” His songs reflect the Montana man he strives to represent. His song, “45 Caliber Man” states, “You can fight for your life and your home and your freedom, Or throw it all away. This isn’t a season for the faint of heart. It’s time that we made our stand. If we are ever going to save Montana, it’s going to take a 45 caliber man.” See robquistformontana.com.