Montana musician Rob Quist seeks Zinke's seat

Although Rob Quist is better known for his pickin’ than his politics, the well-known musician has entered into the contest for the Democratic slot on the ballot to replace Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-MT, in a special election after Montana’s only congressman is confirmed as Secretary of the federal Department of the Interior.

Quist visited MIles City on Thursday, met with the Custer County Democrats group, and stopped at the Miles City Star to be interviewed.

He said when he was approached to run in the special election, Quist pointed out he wasn’t a politician, which was why, his friends said, they were asking him.

Quist is familiar with the entire state, having been raised on a farm and ranch outside of Cut Bank. He was co-captain of the State Class B championship basketball team, and went to the University of Montana in Missoula, where he played basketball. He also founded the Mission Mountain Wood Band (MMWB) while in Missoula.

The MMWB enjoyed considerable success and he toured professionally with the band for 12 years, playing all over the country and charting some Billboard Top 100 hits.

While Quist hopes to run in the special election as a Democrat, he says “I grew up in a Republican household and have Republican siblings. Which is why I don’t want to focus on the polarizing issues that divide us.”

When Zinke is confirmed, it will start a 100-day special election cycle, and a new congressman will be chosen. 

Also in the running on the Democratic side for Zinke’s soon-to-be vacant seat are Amanda Curtis of Butte, Kelly McCarthy of Billings and Casey Schreiner of Great Falls, all of whom are currently serving as representatives to the Montana legislature.

Hannah Nash, vice-chairman of the Custer County Democrats said “We are not endorsing any of the candidates at this time.” She said the group will probably make their decision on who to endorse in mid-to-late February, when the state party meets to select a candidate.

While on the road with is band or his basketball team, and at home as a father, husband and business owner, Quist said he has been “representing the state of Montana my whole life.”

Quist said that when the grind of touring with his band started to get tiring, he returned to Montana, married Bonni Willows, settled on a horse ranch in Creston and started raising their two children, Gutherie and Halladay. Along with the ranch, Quist opened his own entertainment business with headquarters in Kalispell. RQGN has employed up to 15 Montanans and has given Quist an awareness of the issues faced by small business owners in the state, he said. 

Quist also continues to tour and perform.

Quist has served for many years as a spokesman for the Montana Food Bank as well as serving on the board of the Montana Arts Council for 11 years, working with the Office of Public Instruction on school programs and the Department of Commerce on Cultural Exchange Programs, and acting as a cultural ambassador to Montana’s Sister State in Kumamoto, Japan.

He has also served on the Board of the Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation of America for six years and recently received a grant from the Office of Public Instruction to develop anti-bullying programs and a “Native Oral Traditions” program to enhance the arts in in public schools and promote understanding of Native Peoples.