Rob Quist

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Rob Quist
Rob Quist speaking 05.jpg
Robert Ernest Quist

(1948-01-05) January 5, 1948 (age 71)
EducationUniversity of Montana (BA)
Political partyDemocratic
Bonni Willows (m. 1979)

Robert Ernest Quist (born January 5, 1948) is an American singer, instrumentalist (playing guitar and banjo), songwriter, and politician. His songs have been recorded by artists Michael Martin Murphey and Loretta Lynn among others. He is known as a musical and cultural ambassador for the state of Montana and was appointed to the Montana Arts Council by Governor Brian Schweitzer. He has toured extensively throughout the United States, Canada, and Japan.[1] He was the Democratic nominee for Montana's House seat in the 2017 special election.[2]

Early life[edit]

Born January 5, 1948 in Cut Bank, Montana, Quist began singing at a young age and learned to play multiple instruments, including trombone and cello.[3] As a high school senior he led the Cut Bank Wolves to the 1966 Class B Boys State basketball championship under coach Willie Degroot before playing basketball at the University of Montana.[4] While at UM, he also successfully auditioned to join the Jubileers singing group. While in the Jubileers he met Steve Riddle, and the two decided to form a band which eventually evolved into the Mission Mountain Wood Band.[5]

1970s and 1980s career[edit]

The Mission Mountain Wood Band was a bluegrass and country rock band that played their first public performance opening for the band Rare Earth in 1971.[6] The group went on to tour nationally and opened for many notable acts of the era,[7] but were also popular headliners in their local region for events such as the University of Montana's Aber Day kegger.[6] They performed on national television on shows such as Hee Haw[5] and the ABC Cheryl Ladd Special. After the band broke up in 1982, Quist joined with fellow members Terry Robinson and Kurt Bergeron to form the Montana Band,[5] which continued to tour extensively and took first prize in the Willie Nelson country challenge. Quist had left the Montana band prior to a tragic plane crash that killed Robinson, Bergeron and the other members of the band.[8]

Solo career[edit]

Quist performing in 2014
"Team Quist and the Berners" 2017 campaign rally appearance featuring Quist's grown children Halladay (woman with banjo) and Guthrie (guitarist to right of lectern)

As a solo performer Quist formed a backup band called Great Northern.[9] He periodically reunites with the surviving members of the Mission Mountain Wood Band for a small number of concerts.[10]

Rob Quist and Great Northern have performed his original music with the North Dakota State Symphony, the Fairbanks Alaska Symphony, the Glacier Orchestra as well as the Billings, Butte, Helena and Missoula Symphonies. He has written and recorded national television and radio ads for Levis 501 Jeans, AMTRAK's Empire Builder and Original Coors. His original song, "Blue Jean Love Affair" was heard in the Top 20 Country Music Markets.[11]

During a stint in Nashville, Quist forged a songwriting partnership and enduring friendship with Michael Martin Murphey. Their partnership culminated in their song "Close to the Land" which became the theme song for the American Public Television program "America's Heartland." The song went on to win Song of the Year at the Texas Music Awards.[3] His original song "America...Pass It On" and video featuring Jack Gladstone won a Finalist Award at the International Wildlife Film Festival for National Geographic, received airplay on Public Television and featured at many Interpretive Centers throughout the United States. Quist has released 15 CDs of mostly original music about the lives and history of the people of Montana and the West, placing his songs on Billboard and Independent Charts. Quist received airplay in Great Britain, Belgium, Italy, Japan and Switzerland. Both as a solo artist and with M2WB, Quist appeared with a number of musical acts including Heart, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Jimmy Buffett,[7] Dolly Parton,[5]The Allman Brothers Band, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Bonnie Raitt,[12] the Charlie Daniels Band,[10] Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, and Jay Leno.[citation needed]

Quist has been featured on CBS National News in a segment called "Country Comes to New York";[3] he was a guest artist on the Riders in the Sky national radio show "Riders Radio Theater" as well as Montana Public Television. He composed original music for the Montana Repertory Theatre Production "Voice of The Prairie" and original songs for a production about rodeo in present-day Montana, tentatively titled "Cowboy Up."[11]

Quist was one of the first honorees to be inducted into the University of Montana School of Fine Art's "Hall of Honors", saluted as "a celebrated Montana musician and composer who has captured the spirit of the West in his music, an evocative and versatile artist whose gift of song has touched the hearts and souls of his countrymen, an eloquent proponent of the history and beauty of the West whose legacy in song will be embraced by generations to follow."[11]


2017 Montana special election[edit]

Quist at a March 2017 campaign rally

On January 4, 2017, Quist announced he would seek the Democratic nomination for the special election that was anticipated to fill the U.S. House seat held by Ryan Zinke, as Zinke was expected to be nominated to be Secretary of the Interior. Quist was endorsed early on by former Governor Brian Schweitzer, and was selected as the Party's nominee on March 5.[13][14] Quist stated, "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.' Their response was, 'exactly.'" Quist cited as qualifications his work with the state government, lifelong experience traveling in and around Montana, and his upbringing in a ranching family.[15] Independent Senator Bernie Sanders as well as the organization Our Revolution endorsed Quist in the race and campaigned for him.[16][17]

The special election was announced by Governor Steve Bullock on March 1 and set for May 25, the minimum 85 days required after Zinke's confirmation. The race generated considerable national attention, and over $17 million was spent, much of it by outside groups and on television ads, with Quist and third-party organizations supporting him being outspent by about four to one by his opponent and third-party supporters.[18]

Quist was endorsed by a number of politically progressive organizations as well as various unions, environmental organizations and sportsmen's groups.[19] Quist's opponent had been endorsed over Quist by three Montana newspapers, the Billings Gazette, the Missoulian, and the Helena Independent Record, all owned by Lee Enterprises.[20] However, the day before the election, Quist's opponent, Greg Gianforte, was cited for misdemeanor assault after a reporter from The Guardian called the police, stating that he had been attacked by the candidate, an incident captured on audio recording and which was witnessed by reporters from Fox News.[21] As news of the incident broke, the editorial boards of these three newspapers rescinded previous endorsements of Gianforte.[22][23][24]

Quist lost the general election to Gianforte, 50% to 44%, with Libertarian Mark Wicks receiving 6%.[25] This result was the highest percentage of the vote for a Democrat in a Montana house race in the past four election cycles.[26]

Political positions[edit]

Bernie Sanders campaigned with Quist the weekend prior to the 2017 special election

Politico described Quist's policies as "an economic fairness platform" and "a commitment to Montana's particular brand of prairie populism."[27] According to the Washington Post, the Quist campaign opted not to turn the special election into a referendum on Trump's alleged scandals, but to focus on "policy decisions by the president and congressional Republicans."[28]

Quist supports the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and thinks the country should eventually move to a single-payer healthcare system.[29][30] Quist opposes the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the House Republican bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).[31] Quist said that AHCA "will raise healthcare costs for working Montanans", which is consistent with an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.[31] Quist has described AHCA as a "tax cut for millionaires".[32]

Quist has criticized inequality in the United States, and argued that tax breaks for the rich exacerbates the inequality.[33] He has called for tax cuts for the working class.[34]

Quist opposes the privatization of federal lands, military intervention and regime change, as well as any form of religious ban or registry.[35][33] Quist has called for transferring money from the federal military budget "towards health care or Social Security".[36] Quist supports a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.[37] He has called for investments in clean coal technology, as well as energy from wind, solar, biomass and geothermal sources.[38]

Quist has pledged to protect public lands.[39][40] Quist supports the legalization of marijuana, saying "the war on drugs has been an abject failure."[41] Quist supports same-sex marriage.[42] Quist supports access to birth control, preventive screenings and abortion rights.[35] Quist has argued that "the assault on women's reproductive rights" must come to an end.[27] He has called for pay equity for women.[43]

Quist accepts the scientific consensus on climate change and supports actions to mitigate climate change, saying climate change "could have a serious impact on our farms, ranches, and our economy."[38] By contrast, his opponent "did not have specific ideas on how to address climate change."[44] and opposed closing coal-fired power plants.[45]


  1. ^ "Rob Quist". Montana Arts Council Members. Montana Arts Council. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  2. ^ "Election Results: Gianforte Wins U.S. House Seat in Montana". Retrieved May 26, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Lincoln, Marga (March 17, 2011). "Rob Quist headlines benefit concert for Tanzania". Helena Independent Record. Retrieved May 25, 2017.
  4. ^ Larson, Seaborn (March 23, 2017). "Quist's quest for the House follows a familiar trail". Great Falls Tribune. Retrieved May 25, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d Ellis, Simone. "In Without Knocking". The Montanan. University of Montana. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  6. ^ a b Lincoln, Marga (July 15, 2014). "Mission Mountain Wood Band to help Helena celebrate 150 years with free concert". Helena Independent Record. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Never Long Gone: The Mission Mountain Wood Band Story". MontanaPBS. November 15, 2009. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  8. ^ "Bluegrass musicians killed in plane crash", The Washington Post, July 6, 1987
  9. ^ Webb, Jaci (June 15, 2012). "25 years after tragedy, Montana Band launches anniversary tour at ABT". The Billings Gazette. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  10. ^ a b Turvey, Dana (2010). "Mission Mountain Wood Band to Play at Harrah's South Shore Room". South Lake Tahoe Events. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  11. ^ a b c "House of Quist featuring Rob Quist 01/06/2011 Bozeman, Montana, Zebra Cocktail Lounge - Music Event | BozemanEvents". January 6, 2011. Retrieved May 25, 2017.
  12. ^ Parrett, p. 66
  13. ^ Lutey, Tom (January 4, 2017). "Montana musician Rob Quist joins candidates to replace U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke". Billings Gazette. Retrieved January 12, 2017.
  14. ^ Bobby Caina Calvan (March 5, 2017). "Rob Quist wins Democratic nomination for congressional seat". Associated Press.
  15. ^ "Montana musician Rob Quist joins candidates to replace U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke". Billings, Montana: Billings Gazette. January 4, 2017. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  16. ^ Niedermeier, Jordon. "Bernie Sanders rally for Rob Quist moved to MetraPark Expo Center". The Billings Gazette. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
  17. ^ Bullinger, Jake. "A Populist Test in Trump Country". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 25, 2017.
  18. ^ Jacobs, Ben (May 25, 2017). "Montana election: race had tightened even before Gianforte assault charge". The Guardian. Retrieved May 25, 2017.
  19. ^ "Endorsements - Rob Quist for Montana". Retrieved May 25, 2017.
  20. ^ Cates-Carney, Corin. "Three of Montana's Largest Newspapers Endorse Gianforte For US House". Montana Public Radio. MTPR. Retrieved May 15, 2017.
  21. ^ Staff, Chronicle. "Gianforte charged with election-eve assault". Retrieved May 25, 2017.
  22. ^ Gazette opinion: We're pulling our endorsement of Gianforte, Billings Gazette, Editorial Board, May 24, 2017. Retrieved May 25, 2017.
  23. ^ "AN IR VIEW: Independent Record withdraws endorsement of Gianforte". Retrieved May 25, 2017.
  24. ^ "Missoulian rescinds Gianforte endorsement". Retrieved May 25, 2017.
  25. ^ "Montana Secretary of State". Retrieved May 26, 2017.
  26. ^ Conner, James (May 26, 2017). "Quist has best Dem 2-party numbers in last four U.S. House elections". Flathead Memo. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
  27. ^ a b "How a Prairie Populist Could Redraw Montana's Electoral Map". Politico Magazine. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  28. ^ "Analysis | For Democrats, special elections may be preview of 2018 campaigns". Washington Post. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
  29. ^ Evans, Garrett (May 10, 2017). "Populists clash in Montana race". The Hill. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  30. ^ "Candidates Confront GOP Health Care Bill In Montana Special Election". WAMU. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  31. ^ a b Whitney, Eric (May 4, 2017). "Gianforte, Quist Weigh-In On Healthcare Bill". Montana Public Radio.
  32. ^ "Montana Democrat closes with health-care message in closely watched congressional race". Washington Post. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
  33. ^ a b Erickson, David (March 30, 2017). "Quist verbally jabs at GOP opponent in 'health care town hall' in Missoula". Missoulian.
  34. ^ Quist, Rob. "Rob Quist: Tax cuts for working Montanans, not millionaires". Montana Standard. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  35. ^ a b Troy Carter (January 22, 2017). "Rob Quist touring state, lobbying Dems ahead of U.S. House election". Bozeman, Montana: Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  36. ^ Project, Campus Election Engagement (April 25, 2017). "Greg Gianforte vs. Rob Quist vs. Mark Wicks: Nonpartisan Candidate Guide for 2017 Montana Congressional Race". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  37. ^ "Group calls on Quist, Gianforte to fight Citizens United". Missoula Current. March 7, 2017. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  38. ^ a b Lutey, Tom. "Quist, Gianforte support coal, but differ on policy". The Billings Gazette. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  39. ^ Jacobs, Ben (May 21, 2017). "More Bernie, less Trump: is this how Democrats will win Montana's special election?". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  40. ^ News, Mike Dennison - MTN. "Poet/musician Rob Quist navigates uphill road in U.S. House race". Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  41. ^ Fang, Marina (April 30, 2017). "Montana Democratic Candidate Affirms Support For Legalizing Marijuana". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  42. ^ Mauk, Sally. "U.S. House Candidate Rob Quist On Gun Rights, Healthcare, Trump, And More". Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  43. ^ "Democrat running for US House seeks college students' votes". Washington Post. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  44. ^ Gianforte: 'I believe we can develop natural resources and protect the environment', Helena Independent Record, Tim Kuglin, April 28, 2017. Retrieved May 25, 2017.
  45. ^ Lutey, Tom. "Quist, Gianforte support coal, but differ on policy". The Billings Gazette. Retrieved May 25, 2017.