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Montana Dem to DNC Chair Tom Perez: No Thanks

Down 15 points in the polls, Rob Quist turned down an offer from DNC Chair Tom Perez to campaign with him in Big Sky Country.

Tom Perez DNC Fallout

The race to replace Rep. Ryan Zinke, now serving as Interior Secretary, is less than a month away. Democrat Rob Quist is expected to bring Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to campaign with him later this month, but he reportedly turned down an offer from Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Tom Perez to do the same:

The national Democratic Party has endured criticism from progressive activists for failing to provide support to Quist and other long-shot special election candidates. But some Democratic operatives argue that their involvement can nationalize a race in a way that is sometimes unhelpful to candidates running in Republican-leaning districts.

On its face, Quist’s decision to reject the DNC’s offer of in-person assistance affirms this theory. Montana has lately trended Republican in national elections, and a visible presence from the chair of Democratic Party could prove a liability among independents and Republican swing voters.

If Quist is trying to avoid “nationalizing” the race, however, bringing Sanders out to Montana is an odd way of going about it. While it’s true that Sanders’ brand of populism seems to match Quist’s, Sanders’ mere presence in the state will attract millions of watchful eyes.

Quist’s rejection of Perez is notable, if not surprising. Perez, President Obama’s former labor secretary, barely defeated Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) in the race for chairman. Since that time, he’s better known for his foul-mouthed speeches than being an effective leader of the Democratic Party. He was routinely booed by Democrat audiences last month during a nationwide “Unity Tour” with Sanders.

Polling shows Quist down about 15 percentage points to Republican Greg Gianforte. Montana’s special election is May 25.