Protesters were absent Saturday, inside and outside the Butte Civic Center during the rally featuring U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and U.S. House Democratic hopeful Rob Quist.
The rally, however, attracted people from all walks of life and from all over southwestern Montana.
Ashley Roder, 24, broke with her Dillon family political affiliation by attending with her husband, Tim, 24, and baby daughter, Cambri.
“I came from a very hard-core political family,” she said. “My Dad is a Republican, but I’m an independent.”
She wore an orange wristband, indicating she is registered to vote in the special election on May 25. Tim wore a red one, partly as a reminder.
“We can’t really remember if he’s registered to vote,” said Ashley.
Amanda Frickle, field director for the Rob Quist campaign, handing out three different colored wristbands at the front door, said yellow indicates the person has already voted. Campaign staff wanted merely a casual head count, she added.
“We just decided to try this – to get people thinking about a plan to vote,” Frickle said, “especially with the election on a Thursday. If they’re not registered, it’s not too late. You can register and vote on Election Day from 8 to 5 at any county election office, on the Montana Secretary of State page or at www.Iwillvote.com.
“Montana is one of the states that has fended off attacks on same-day voter registration,” added Frickle.
Few sported the not-yet-registered-to-vote wristbands, indicating the event drew mostly folks already registered. But the crowd seemed fairly evenly split between those who already voted and those who hadn’t.
A healthy mix of seniors, middle-aged folks and Millennials like the Roders turned out, standing or sitting hodge-podge in chairs on the Civic Center concrete floor.
Several Millennials said informed demographics vary in their age group when it comes to the special election – and politics in general.
“Most of my friends are interested, but for the most part, most in my age group are not interested in politics,” said Ashley Roder.
Kal Leamer, 21, a post-Millennial, has yet to vote, but he plans to in person at the Butte-Silver Bow polls next Thursday with family and friends.
“I think for my generation, we want to go out there and vote and be seen – and be seen on social media, because we feel we’re a part of something,” said Leamer.
He joined a lot of his friends to hear Sanders and Quist.
“My friends are aware of what’s going on in the country and they’re ready for a change,” said Leamer, an independent businessman with a clothing line. “They see this as more important than sitting home watching TV.”
Kayla Martin, 27, of Butte, said her generation is “caring enough to vote.”
“A lot of people are worried about the leader of our country,” Martin said, “and more people are staying in touch with news in politics.”
Christine and Dennis Williams of Butte, members of an older generation, said they voted absentee.
“We were afraid there wouldn’t be enough people here,” said Christine. “We’re Democrats, but we’re in favor of the liberal candidate and Rob Quist.”
Dillon sisters Angela and Sissy Dansie, sporting matching “Stay Loud” T-shirts, also can’t wait until the special Election Day. Sissy bought the shirts in Sacramento, California, where she protested for workers, immigration reform and to halt the Keystone XL pipeline last March.
“We already sent Zinke to Washington and he’s not representing how we feel about our land, our country and our monuments,” said Sissy, a construction worker. “Montana would never take down a monument.”
She referred to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who vacated the U.S. House seat that Quist and Republican opponent Greg Gianforte are seeking. Zinke is conducting a review of all national monuments.
Quist and Sanders drew big cheers and boos at some of Sanders’ criticisms of the Republicans, President Donald Trump and the one-percenters.
“It’s great to see Bernie in Montana because it seems that Greg Gianforte is buying the election,” said Andrew Hoffman, 30, of Helena and a Missouri native. “It’s nice to see a national figure like Bernie come out and support a real Montanan.”
Before the rally, Val Mourich and Gary Campbell of Butte bought several partisan buttons from vendor Scott Jefferson, who said his High End Sales works independently, but that the company sells at rallies across the political spectrum. Jefferson hails from Cleveland, Ohio.
As the crowd grew, a Butte band, Seth Ontario and the Canadian Mounted Police, entertained with bluegrass reminiscent of Quist’s former Mission Mountain Wood Band.
Hoffman and wife Emilie Erich Hoffman, 33, dressed in formal wear, left early to attend a Butte wedding after paying their “respects” to Bernie and Quist.
“I think there is a lot of energy in this election,” said Hoffman. “A lot of my friends are going to vote – and a lot of them for the first time.”