Rob Quist Dealt Blistering Defeat in Montana Special Election

Republican Greg Gianforte elected to fill vacant Montana House seat

Democrat Rob Quist / Getty Images
May 26, 2017

Democrat Rob Quist, a banjo-playing political newcomer who has performed regularly at a nudist resort and has a long history of tax delinquency, was defeated in Thursday's special election to fill Montana's vacant seat in the House of Representatives, according to the Associated Press.

Election watchers began to call the race for Republican Greg Gianforte early on Friday morning with Quist trailing by around 7 percent of the vote with nearly 70 percent of the precincts reporting. The AP called the race for Gianforte shortly after.

Quist was trailing by nearly 25,000 votes—175,058 to 151,425—around the time that the race was called.

Quist announced his campaign in January after Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke was tapped to be President Trump's secretary of the interior. He attempted to run as a political outsider, rejecting help from Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez earlier this month and opting instead to tie himself to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), who won the state's 2016 Democratic primary.

Quist's campaign, however, was forced to deal with a slew of questions once the candidate came under media scrutiny.

Chief among the issues that dogged Quist was his long history of financial debts, including property tax debts stretching back to 2007 that weren't paid off until the state filed liens against him in 2015. Quist's history also included failing to pay a contractor that worked on his house and failure to pay off thousands of dollars in debt to Wells Fargo.

In an attempt to explain his financial troubles, Quist said that a gallbladder surgery gone wrong in 1996 left him unable to work as much as he used to, and unable to work at all in 2011.

It was uncovered shortly later that Quist performed often in 2011, including at Idaho's Sun Meadow Nudist Resort, where he has been a frequent performer over the years.

The Washington Free Beacon also reported on a 1994 lawsuit regarding the gallbladder surgery that showed that much of what Quist said about his medical issues had been misleading. His 1996 surgery, for example, actually occurred in 1992.

The doctor also denied any wrongdoing in the operation. His lawyers pointed out that much of what was ailing Quist could have been due to preexisting medical conditions such as genital herpes and a thyroid issue. Both sides decided to dismiss the case, and it is unclear whether there was any wrongdoing or monetary settlement.

Democrats had hoped that Greg Gianforte's Wednesday night altercation with Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, which resulted in Gianforte being charged by police with misdemeanor assault, would drag him down enough for Quist to prevail.

A large majority of votes, however, were cast through early ballots before Gianforte's altercation with Jacobs.

It is also unclear whether the incident had a negative impact on Montana voters. It was reported that Gianforte brought in over $100,000 worth of last-minute contributions that came in on election day.

In a victory speech early Friday morning, Gianforte called his altercation with Jacobs a "mistake" and issued an apology to Jacobs.

Published under: Rob Quist