Health care, environment, drug costs among Missoula voters’ concerns

By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

When Sen. Bernie Sanders stopped in Missoula last year during his run for president, the lines ran through downtown Missoula and many were left outside the venue at Caras Park, unable to get a seat or a view of the popular Democrat.

Those who remember last year’s frustrations arrived at sunrise on Saturday, standing first in line to enter the Adams Center at the University of Montana campus to hear Sanders rally voters for congressional hopeful Rob Quist.

While doors wouldn’t open to the public until 10 a.m., Abby Lucarz and her daughter, DR, and her son, Ryder, arrived at 5:30 a.m. to ensure they’d through the door.

“I said we had to be here at 5 and I thought they’d go back to bed on a Saturday morning, but we’re here,” said Abby. “They really want to see Bernie Sanders.”

The family of three were first in line Saturday, and while none are overly political, they’ve all given their support to Democratic candidate Rob Quist, who will face Republican Greg Gianforte in Thursday’s special election.

“I really don’t like politics – they’re mean, they’re horrible and everything seems like lies to me,” said DR. “But just watching (Sanders), he’s honest, truthful and whenever anyone tries to ask him some irreverent question, he says let’s talk about the point. He really believes in people and helping people and I think that’s transferring to Quist.”

Many in line wore remnants of Sanders’ last visit to Missoula, including “Bernie” buttons and “Fuck Trump” T-shirts, which were sold by at least one sidewalk vendor ahead of Sanders’ speech last year.

Fewer were the T-shirts supporting Quist, though they too would go on sale later on Saturday, resembling the shirts sold during the Pearl Jam concerts when Sen. Jon Tester was making his first – and second – run for the Senate.

A man wears a Rob Quist button over a T-shirt he purchased last year during Saturday’s rally in Missoula. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

“I’ve seen both Rob Quist and Greg Gianforte, and I’m not a fan of Gianforte for multiple reasons,” said DR. “I’ve been watching Rob Quist and he seems to be very similar to Sanders – he’s just nice. It’s kind of crazy for politics.”

The issues of concern to voters standing in line were far reaching. Kathy Moore, who arrived at around 6 a.m. and has already cast her vote for Quist, said health care, prescription drug prices and taxes stood as her top issues.

Patrick Yawakie, who lives on the Flathead Indian Reservation, said tribal sovereignty is his biggest issue.

“I think people are waking up and realizing that the people who are setting our policies are doing it against our best benefit,” said Yawakie. “It’s important, being a Native American, that we set a precedent for our community to get engaged in the voting process.”

Regina Mad Plume, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe and an enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, echoed those sentiments, saying tribal sovereignty was an important issue to her and one Quist has vowed to uphold.

“The most important thing to me would be protection of our land and natural resources, as well as our indigenous sovereignty,” said Mad Plume. “Myself, being Native American, it’s important that our indigenous sovereignty is out there in the public and that our treaties be acknowledged.”

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at