Voters are heading to the polls in Montana to select who they want to represent them in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The special election is for Montana’s At-Large congressional district — the state has one seat in the House. Former Rep. Ryan Zinke had left the seat because he was confirmed as the U.S. Department of Interior’s secretary.
The Democrat in the race is musician Rob Quist, while the Republican nominee is Greg Gianforte, a businessman who had a failed run at governor in 2016. Libertarian Mark Wicks is also running for the seat.
Quist hasn’t held a job within the government before and has never ran for political office. But here he is, close to Gianforte in the polls. He’s been married to college sweetheart Bonni Willows for almost 40 years.
Here’s what you need to know about Bonni:
1. They Got Married In 1979 & Have 2 Children
Bonni and Rob met when going to college. Rob was heavily involved in music and was on the basketball team when they met. They formed a relationship in their college years and started seeing each other more often. The couple got married in 1979.
Shortly after that, they opted to settle down and moved to a horse ranch in Creston. They have two children together: Guthrie and Halladay.
When Rob was on the road touring with his band, oftentimes Bonni would bring the kids with.
When Guthrie was a toddler, his father took him on the road for the very first time. While they were in Utah, Rob set his son up in a dressing room that was just off of the stage and told him to leave the curtain open just a tad so that he could keep an eye on him while he was playing music on stage.
“Guthrie was always a night-owl like his dad and midway through the show one night,” Bonni said in an article in The Montanian. “Rob turns around and Guthrie had gotten up, gotten dressed. He had his little jeans and boots on. He must not have been more than two and a half, but he came out on stage with his guitar. He didn’t know how to play his guitar, but he knew how to gyrate, and he started gyrating. People started cracking up and he totally stole the show.”
Guthrie went on to graduate from Pepperdine University while Halladay followed in her father’s footsteps and joined the University of Montana’s Jubileers singing group. She’s been actively involved in music since she was a child.
2. Rob Dedicated His Campaign Song to Her
Before Quist launched his congressional campaign, he was writing a song dedicated to Bonni, who had been the victim of cyber-bullying. He said he wanted to craft a song for her that told her that he’d be there for her no matter what she was dealing with.
“As we all know and we’ve all seen, bullies aren’t just on the playground, they’re everywhere through life,” Quist said in a radio interview.
He said that when he launched his campaign for the vacant house seat, he didn’t have to change up too much of it to mesh well as a theme song.
The song is called “I Will Stand Up For You” and has worked as an anthem of the campaign.
3. Bonni Was a Cheerleader at the University of Montana
Similar to Rob, Bonni attended the University of Montana. It’s where the two met.
Bonni was a business student at the school and also spent time as a cheerleader while Rob found success on the basketball court and in the Jubileers singing group.
Shortly after college, Rob started a music career while Bonni was at his side almost every step of the way.
4. She Works as a Real Estate Agent
Bonni has worked as a real estate agent for the past 13 years in Montana. According to her Zillow profile, she’s a buyer and listing agent and specializes in appraisals and commercial real estate.
She has made five home sales within the past year and has a five-star rating with each of her eight reviews from clients.
One reviewer, who purchased a single-family home in 2015 from Bonni, spoke glowingly of her enthusiasm to the industry.
Throughout the process, from bare idea to new ownership, Bonni Quist did everything to help us. We looked at numerous properties and found exactly the right one. Our price range was limited and we had some specific requirements that narrowed our options. Bonni was tireless and worked hard to make sure we got her best service. She is positive and enthusiastic about the available listings and when we found one and decided to make an offer, she had both the expertise and the skills to make sure the process went smoothly. We have the highest regard for her and would most certainly both recommend her and use her again if we need a real estate professional again.
Bonni’s real estate agent profile ensures potential customers that she remains dedicated to her job.
“I pride myself on being honest, trustworthy, and knowledgeable in the real estate market,” she wrote. “I know how important it is to find your dream home or get the best offer for your property. Therefore I will make it my responsibility to help you achieve those goals.”
5.The Couple Filed a Lawsuit Against a Doctor in the 1990s
In October 1994, the Quists filed a lawsuit against Dr. Roch Boyer in Montana’s 11th Judicial District.
Rob had undergone a gallbladder operation in 1992 performed by Dr. Boyer and the lawsuit claimed that the doctor committed wrongdoing, which was said to have caused long-term adverse health effects.
The lawsuit claimed that Dr. Boyer cut the wrong part of the gallbladder and converted the procedure to an open cholecystectomy instead. Court documents said that Dr. Boyer tried to repair his mistake, but it was unsuccessful. It claimed that Quist had to have a second operation due to Dr. Boyer’s negligence and said that “the injuries would not have occurred if ordinary care had been exercised.”
Because of the ordeal, the Quists sought an unspecified monetary amount. Part of it, as it said in the lawsuit, was because Bonni “constantly enjoyed the services, society and companionship” of her husband.
But as a result of the alleged negligence, she “suffered the loss of (Rob’s) services, society and companionship and will suffer further such losses in the future.”
Read the complaint below:
But the lawsuit set off Dr. Boyer and his attorney, who claimed that Quist had many pre-existing conditions prior to the surgery, saying that any long-term effects may be due to those.
Those conditions brought up by the defense were that Quist had genital herpes, tested positive for tuberculosis and smoked marijuana. But the Quists’ lawyer said those findings were not relevant in the lawsuit.
Read the court motion below:
Once Dr. Boyer’s lawyer refused to exclude Quist’s pre-existing conditions from the case, both sides agreed for the case to be dismissed. It’s unknown if there was a settlement reached between the two out of court.
There were also three additional lawsuits uncovered in the court filing, filed by former members of his band. Two of them were to collect debts from Quist and another was to terminate a partnership with him.