A couple hundred people showed up to rally in support of keeping “Montana’s public lands in public hands” and to listen to Democratic candidate for U.S. House, Rob Quist, speak Saturday at Depot Park in Kalispell.
“When the super rich look at our mountains and streams they probably think, ‘this would be nice to own,’ but Montanans would say it’s our way of life,” Quist told the crowd.
Quist, a musician from the Creston area, is vying for Montana’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives left vacant earlier this month by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. He is being challenged by Republican Greg Gianforte, a businessman from Bozeman who fell short in his campaign last election against Gov. Steve Bullock.
At Saturday’s rally, Quist spoke in support of access to public lands. He described the sale of public lands as a “theft against our children and our grandchildren,” adding that “Our Montana way of life is under attack.”
“Too many people in Congress think Washington has all the answers, particularly when it comes to rural America, but we have the answers right here in Montana,”
Quist said that as Montana’s representative, he would work with other members of Congress who share the desire to keep public lands open to the public.
“You stand up, you form coalitions and unite and that’s how you do this,” Quist said.
Quist vowed to block any attempts to cut jobs connected to public lands, which he states is not a priority for his Republican opponent.
“He’s [Gianforte] been funding and working with the very people who want to take away our way of life,” Quist told the crowd, adding, “This House seat should not be his consolation prize.”
Betty Kuffel, a member of the political activist group Big Sky Rising, said she came out Saturday to show support for Quist.
“The land, the beauty is what drew me to Montana … I think he [Quist] knows Montana better than his opponent. He knows the people and he has values many people share,” Kuffel said.
“He’s [Quist] a straight shooter, a Montanan, he’s one of us,” rally attendee Nancy Woodruff said. “I see Gianforte as an outsider who’s trying to buy his way in.”
Members of the crowd shouted that their votes were “not for sale,” after Quist warned of attempts by his opponent to funnel money into ad campaigns against him.
“I challenge Greg Gianforte to meet me anytime, anyplace and we’ll see who’s out of tune with Montana politics,” Quist said, referencing an ad that ran earlier this month.
The special election will take place May 25.
Reporter Alyssa Gray may be reached at 758-4433 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.