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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Rob Quist, Actress Alyssa Milano Campaign At UM, MSU

Democratic candidate for U.S. House Rob Quist rallies supporters at the University of Montana Thursday, April 27.
Josh Burnham
Democratic candidate for U.S. House Rob Quist rallies supporters at the University of Montana Thursday, April 27.

Rob Quist has been rallying college students in Bozeman and Missoula this week.

The Democratic candidate for Montana’s U.S. House seat was in Bozeman Sunday and Wednesday, and Missoula Thursday. The spring semester at MSU ends May 5, and at UM, May 12, that’s well before in-person voting day in the special election which is May 25.

In Missoula Thursday, Quist urged students to recruit their peers to go out and vote.

"This election is coming up so fast. There’s only 28 days now until the election, so I just want you to really talk to everyone you know and equate to them the importance of this election."

Republican Greg Gianforte doesn’t publish a list of appearances, but his campaign says he was in Bozeman, Billings Laurel, Deer Lodge and Missoula this week, and will be in Great Falls Saturday for the only televised debate of the campaign. That debate will be broadcast on MTN television stations Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. Montana Public Radio will air audio of the debate Sunday night at 6:00 p.m.

Quist’s campus events included appearances by actress Alyssa Milano.

Milano, known for her performances in ‘Who’s the Boss’, ‘Charmed’, ‘Melrose Place’ and ‘Commando’ stumped for Quist at Montana State in Bozeman on Wednesday, and in Missoula on Thursday. Milano encouraged college students to register to vote and also, to vote for Quist.

About 30 people, including Matt and Karah Durrin greeted Milano at the grizzly bear statue on UM’s oval:

Matt Durrin: Well we're both big Rob Quist supporters, and we get the added benefit of seeing Alyssa Milano, who, at the risk of aging myself, I've been a fan for quite a number of years. So I'd say it's pretty cool to see the interactions.

Matt Durrin (L) and Karah Durrin (R) take a picture with Alyssa Milano (C) at the University of Montana April 27, 2017.
Credit Edward O'brien
Matt Durrin (L) and Karah Durrin (R) take a picture with Alyssa Milano (C) at the University of Montana April 27, 2017.

Edward O'Brien: What draws you to Rob Quist?

MD: He identifies with more of my personal beliefs on how the government should interact with society. Taking more of an active role in assuring people's lives are better, people have better opportunities. So I think it'll be a good positive influence.

EO: Karah, do you agree?

Karah Durrin: Oh I agree 100 percent. I knew him when I was a child, I actually swam in his pond, and he is a good guy. He represents Montana. The other one just doesn't, he is big business and money. And you know, our tuition has gone up here. I really feel that Rob Quist is fighting for us, the normal people, and not the top percent.

Alyssa Milano's passion for progressive politics is now going on almost two decades.

Alyssa Milano: It really started in 2000 when Gore lost, and in 2004 I started campaigning for Kerry. And I would basically do the same thing that I'm doing right now. I would go to different states and I'd drive people to the polls, or I'd canvass and I'd go door to door, or I'd phone bank. And obviously it was a different time then because there was no social media so I was just kind of doing it as a volunteer. Now volunteering for me comes with a whole other, sort of, parade. But I'm happy to do it. And you know I was raised that it's our duty to be a part of the political process and the only way for this country to really function properly is if the citizens are part of that process.

EO: When you're pitching college students to register get out to vote. What's your sales pitch what do you tell them?

AM: That if you're upset, if you're not happy with the way things are functioning, if you think that things should be different, you have to register. You have to vote. And you can also run. I think it's important to tell our young people, especially young women, that they can be part of this process in a legitimate way and they should run for politics.

EO: Why young women in particular?

AM: Because talk about an imbalance. There are not a lot of women in our government, and I don't know why that is, but I feel like if there were more, things would be very different.

EO: And when you hear people say 'oh listen, Hollywood actors and performers and musicians, shut up and sing. Shut up and act. What do you say?

AM: I would say that, well first, we elected a president that was a celebrity. So those are the same people telling me to be quiet. Also I'm a mother, I'm a daughter, I'm a sister, I'm a citizen of this country. I pay taxes. Although my opinion shouldn't mean more than anyone else's, I just feel like it's my civic duty to participate in the process.

Milano gave several people a lift to the Missoula County Election Center at the Fairgrounds Thursday morning to vote early in Montana’s May 25 special election.

O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the University of Montana School of Journalism. His first career job out of school was covering the 1995 Montana Legislature. When the session wrapped up, O’Brien was fortunate enough to land a full-time position at the station as a general assignment reporter. Feel free to drop him a line at
Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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