A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

5 March 2017

Montana Democrats nominate Rob Quist on 4th ballot


Rob Quist, the arts advocate and master musician with the big and well traveled hat, became the Montana Democratic Party’s nominee for the U.S. House, defeating Rep. Amanda Curtis 90–69 on the fourth ballot at the party’s convention in Helena today. Rep. Kelly McCarthy was dropped from the ballot after the third ballot.

Here’s an unofficial breakdown of the voting, assembled from reports on Twitter by Mike Dennison and at #mtpol:


Immediately following the convention, the Democrats held a “Blue No Matter Who” pep rally in Helena to encourage unity and hit the ground running when they return to their homes.

This has to be a bitter disappointment for Curtis, who was the party’s special convention nominee in 2014 after John Walsh was exposed as a plagiarist and had to withdraw as the party nominee for the U.S. Senate. Curtis generated enthusiasm and raised approximately one million dollars, but lost to U.S. Rep. Steve Daines by a three to two margin.

Some of her supporters may not be ready to embrace Quist immediately, but most will eventually, especially if she asks them to vote and work for Quist, which I’m fully confident she will. McCarthy and the other also-rans will also campaign vigorously for Quist.

Indeed, I can imagine campaign rallies at which Curtis, an accomplished folk musician, and Quist play a few songs together.

Quist, also a rancher and from a ranching family, brings to the campaign an easygoing western authenticity that helps him establish cultural common cause with rural voters in much the same way that former governor Brian Schweitzer did. Quist will do just as well as Curtis or McCarthy would have in Montana’s towns and small cities, but he’ll do a bit better than they would have in the countryside. That’s why I endorsed him in early January.

Quist’s best chance of winning will come from focusing on economics and improving the lives of Montanans. He must talk about the voters, not about the Republican nominee. He must not try to appeal to Republican voters by running as Republican Lite. And he avoid getting bogged down in social issues. In short, he needs to run as a lunch bucket Democrat who in Congress will fight for health care, Social Security, the minimum wage, and other programs and policies that improve the lives of the poor and the middle class.

Both Curtis and McCarthy have bright futures in Montana’s Democratic Party. So does Dan West, the young man with impressive science credentials who received a surprising 11 percent of the vote on the first ballot. We’ll be hearing more from him.