Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has offered to travel to Montana to help boost insurgent House candidate Rob Quist, who is running in a surprisingly competitive special election for the at-large seat previously held by Ryan Zinke, who is now secretary of the department of interior. The stop would be part of a national tour Sanders is doing with Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez after Easter, the Vermont senator told The Huffington Post in an interview.
The duo plan to hit roughly nine states, but the details are still being worked out.
Sanders, whose organization, Our Revolution, has endorsed Quist, said that the House hopeful is the kind of candidate Democrats should be putting up in traditionally Republican areas.
“The idea that we have a major political party today, which has essentially given up on half of the country is beyond absurd. It is pathetic, because many of those states are some of the states in the most economic distress,” he said.
“My impression is [Quist]’s a very strong candidate who stands up for working people, understands that we need a government that represents all of us and not the one percent. So if we can be of help to Quist, happy to do that as well.”
Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, will already be in the neighborhood, so to speak, with plans to stop in Omaha, Nebraska. “There is going to be a mayor’s race and my understanding is that the Democratic candidate there has a chance to win if voter turnout is high, and we’ll do what we can to create high voter turnout,” Sanders said. “In Montana, if it works out, we’d love to go to Montana and help Quist in his race.”
Quist, a bluegrass legend in the state, starts with unusually high name recognition for a first-time candidate. He endorsed Sanders during the Democratic primary and has run a populist campaign based on preserving access to and conserving public lands, expanding healthcare coverage and protecting reproductive freedom rights.
He did not immediately return a request for comment, nor did Quist’s spokeswoman. Republicans in red districts often try to paint Democrats as beholden to coastal elites such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), as the party is trying to do to both Quist and Jon Ossoff, a Democrat running in a special election in suburban Atlanta, Georgia. Quist has already been attacked for his support of Sanders during the primary, though it’s unclear if that approach is effective against him, as the senator is a rural populist from Vermont, not an urban-center politician.
Sanders thinks his politics can play in rural areas across the country. “In Kentucky, for example, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul should have to explain to their state, which may have benefited more than any other state in this country from the ACA, why it is that they think it is appropriate to throw hundreds of thousands of people in their own state off of healthcare,” Sanders said. “I look forward to their explanation as to why they think that is good public policy. Our job is to go to Kentucky and go to other states and say to working class people and young people that they are not alone. That in their own state, there are a whole lot of people who are prepared to stand up and fight against a right wing agenda which benefits the wealthy and the powerful at the expense of their middle class and working families.”