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Montana politics, elections and legislative news.

Eight Democrats Contend For Their Party's U.S. House Nomination

Montana Democratic Party.

On Sunday, Democrats will gather in Helena to pick their nominee for Montana's special election for the U.S. House. There are eight candidates, including Flathead Valley rancher and musician Rob Quist:

"I really feel like I’ve been a representative of Montana through my music all my life," Quist says.

Quist toured both nationally and internationally as a member of the Mission Mountain Wood Band. In recent weeks, he's been doing in a different kind of touring:

"I've been to 40 counties in the last month-and-a-half and I've been on a listening tour throughout the whole state and I really feel like I've gotten great support through this whole thing."

He and seven others are vying for the Democratic party's nomination to run for Montana's lone congressional seat. It was vacated by Ryan Zinke Wednesday when he became the nation's Interior secretary. A special election to replace him is set for May 25.

Unlike a normal election in the state, which has a primary, nominees for the special election will be chosen by delegates within the party.

While Quist wouldn't say how many delegates he's secured, he does say, "we're feeling very confident about where we are."

Last month, a Bozeman Chronicle straw poll of party insiders showed Quist holding a small lead over state representative Amanda Curtis.

Curtis did not immediately return requests by Montana Public Radio for an interview.

Other candidates include state representative Kelly McCarthy of Billings, Bozeman attorney John Meyer, retired businessman Tom Weida of Helena, and Dan West of Missoula, who was a political appointee to NASA under the Obama Administration.

West says it'll take three things to win the house seat: drumming up voters, a willingness to reach across the aisle, and energizing Montana's youth to vote.

"I think it's time for the next generation to get involved and step up."

West says he's different from the other Democratic candidates, because he's already worked on Capitol Hill.

"I already have relationships up on the hill, I have bipartisan relationships there. This is our one seat in the House of Representatives and I think that perspective is important."

Lee Neimark, a business owner and ski instructor in Whitefish, is also in the running. He says he's tired of politics-as-usual in Washington.

"It seems that the representatives are not representing their constituencies. They're representing their donors. Basically, our government is for sale."

As a former scientist, educator and current businessman, Neimark believes he could do a better job.

"I think that my background, even though I didn't know that’s where I was heading, has prepared me for this position."

Like Neimark, D.C. politics was also a motivating factor for candidate Gary Stein, a Missoula schoolteacher.

"I don't think we have had a lot of competent representation at the federal level for a long time in my life as a citizen, and I think I can do a better job," Stein says. "Check that; I know I can do a better job."

That being said, Stein isn't looking at Sunday's convention with rose-colored glasses.

"I realize that I don't have what appears to be great name or face recognition. But I've been here a long time in the state. I do know a number of people, particularly in the educational field, a few in the political field, and I trust that those folks would be able to help me get my name out and send that message."

The Democratic nominating convention will begin at 10:00 a.m. Sunday at the Best Western Premier Great Northern Hotel in Helena. It is open to the public.

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