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Quist, Powers will square off in primary

by CHRIS PETERSON
Editor | May 8, 2024 2:00 AM

Two Democrats will square off in the June primary to represent House District 3. The District isn’t the one voters are used to, either. Rather than encompassing Columbia Falls and the Canyon, it now extends west to Whitefish and includes the neighborhoods in Whitefish and Columbia Falls north of the railroad tracks all the way to the Canada line, including the North Fork Community.

The Canyon is now in House District 5 and Columbia Falls city proper along with most of Whitefish, is in House District 4.

In the primary Debo Powers will square off against Guthrie Quist. When asked what separates her from Quist, Powers she lives in the district and Quist doesn’t.

“Our life and culture in the northern Flathead County is different,” Powers, a North Fork resident, said last week. “It’s important to live in the district.”

But Quist counters that by saying he was born and raised in Flathead County. He chose to run in House District 3 as the district he lives in, House District 11, is one of the reddest in the state. House District 3, in turn, is far more purple.

State law allows for a person to run in a district they don’t live in, as long as they live in the same county as the district.

Residence aside, Quist points to his previous work in politics. He worked on his father, Rob Quist’s congressional campaign during a special election against Republican Greg Gianforte in 2017.

Quist made an award-winning  film of that campaign called “Bodyslammed” — a reference to when Gianforte allegedly slammed a reporter questioning him prior to the election.

Since then Quist has worked on campaigns in Wyoming and New Hampshire, he said last week.

Quist and his wife Summer, also run Quist Montana Properties, a real estate and property management firm. 

Powers also touts her political and community experience as well. She was a state legislator for 14 months from 2019-2020 after she was appointed to fill the seat of then- legislator Zak Perry, who resigned. She was defeated in the general election in 2020 by Republican Braxton Mitchell.

She is the vice president of the North Fork Preservation Association, past president of the North Fork Landowners Association, on the board of Headwaters Montana and on the statewide board of Wild Montana., She also serves on the Flathead County Resource Advisory Committee and was a member of the Whitefish Range Partnership. She also works as a volunteer as a Flathead National Forest fire lookout.

Powers is from Florida but has lived up the North Fork in the summers for decades and has lived there permanently for several years now.

She has a background in education. Education is one of the top priorities for both candidates.

Both agreed a statewide building reserve would be appropriate to help schools with emergency repairs. School District 6, for example, is floating a levy to put a new roof on a portion of the high school after it was discovered the roof was failing — rotting from the inside — where it wasn’t obvious.

Quist said he’d also like to see starting teacher wages doubled, as Montana has one of the lowest starting salaries for teachers in the nation, he claimed.

Quist said he has an “unequivocal record of supporting public schools and public education.”

His mother was a public school teacher throughout her career, he noted.

Powers said other big issues included renewing Medicaid expansion.

“It’s not a handout,” she said. “It’s affordable health insurance.”

She said high property taxes are another issue on voters’ minds as is affordable housing.

Quist said he’s also concerned about property taxes and affordable housing. In his own business, he said he encourages homeowners who are doing vacation rentals to consider long term rentals, as they end up making the same amount of annual revenue and they help folks get housing in a tight market.

The primary election is June 4. The winner of the primary will go on to face Republican Cathy Mitchell in the November election.