Rob Quist, of Mission Mountain Wood Band fame, will seek the Montana Democratic Party's nomination to replace the state's lone congressman, Republican Ryan Zinke.
Quist made the announcement late Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s kind of wild how it all goes down,” Quist told The Gazette. “I was approached by people who I really respect and they asked me to run. And my first thought was ‘Wait a minute, I’m not a politician,’ ” Quist said. “Their response was, ‘exactly.’ ”
Rep. Zinke, is Presidential-elect Donald Trump’s, nominee to be interior secretary. The congressman could be confirmed by a full vote of U.S. Senate in the next few weeks.
Zinke would have to resign his House seat upon confirmation, which would trigger a Montana special election to replace him no later than 100 days after his resignation.
The state’s major political parties would then hold nominating conventions to select candidates for the election. County-level committee members for each party would decide who ran in the special election. Several would-be candidates have expressed interest for both the GOP and Democratic parties.
Quist hasn’t held elected office, but he outlined several years of public service in his campaign announcement.
“I have worked with our state government and many of our state’s organizations and citizens to promote harmony, cooperation and a common vision for our state," Quist 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.”
Quist is an award winning entertainer who became a household name in Montana in the 1970s because of his work with the Mission Mountain Wood Band.
Quist was an 11-year member of the Montana Arts Council, appointed first by former Gov. Brian Schweitzer and reappointed by Gov. Steve Bullock. He recently stepped down from the Arts Council.
He has been a state ambassador to Montana's sister state in Kumamoto, Japan. He also served as spokesman and advocate for the Montana Food Bank Network.
Recently, Quist received a grant from the Montana Office of Public Instruction to develop anti-bullying programs and a “Native Oral Traditions” program to enhance the arts in public schools.
Quist is a native of Cut Bank and comes from a ranching family. That background has given him understating about the challenges faced by Montana’s farmers and ranchers, as well as the impact of international grade on Montana’s economy.
He lives in the Flathead Valley with his wife, Bonni.
Other Democrats interested in Montana’s only congressional seat include state legislators Kelly McCarty of Billings, Amanda Curtis of Butte and Casey Schreiner of Great Falls.
Republicans who have said they are interested include state legislators Ed Buttrey of Great Falls, Daniel Zolnikov of Billings and Scott Sales of Bozeman. Others include Ronald Reagan appointee Gary Carlson, Bozeman businessman Eugene Graf IV and District Court Judge Russell Fagg of Billings.