It was an unusual setting for the Hamilton stop on Democrat Steve Bullock’s “Montana Made - Drive Out The Vote” tour. In the snow, the evening rally was a cross between a drive-in movie theater and a political rally.

Those attending drove into the north parking lot of the Ravalli County Fairgrounds, where the cars were parked in rows facing an outdoor Big Screen display and a small speakers platform. Besides the public address system, an FM radio signal was broadcast into the cars, (most of which had engines running for heat in the below freezing temperatures). Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the audience was asked to stay in their vehicles.

The evening started with a host of recorded television ads for the main state Democratic candidates. Then Nancy Keenan introduced a host of local and state Democratic candidates, who each gave short speeches. Instead of applause, all the speakers asked for the audience to honk their horns. The horn honking continued through the event. Speakers included State Senate candidate Margaret Gorski, Public Service Commission candidate Monica Tranel, Public Instruction candidate Melissa Romano, Auditor candidate Shane Morigeau, Attorney General candidate Raph Graybill, Secretary of State candidate Bryce Bennett, Governor candidate Mike Cooney, US House candidate Kathleen Williams (recorded), and then Senate candidate Steve Bullock.

The Montana Governor is running against Senator Steve Daines. In his speech, Bullock said that it was more than just candidates on the ballot. He told the crowd that everyday issues were involved, such as healthcare, education, public lands, Medicare and Social Security and support for small businesses. He said, “This is the most important election in our lifetime. Our very democracy is on the ballot.”

The Hamilton rally was one of eleven stops on the statewide tour. It started in Livingston October 3, and continued this month in Miles City, Kalispell, Helena, Great Falls, Butte, Billings and Bozeman. After Hamilton, the show goes to Havre Friday and Missoula Sunday. The General Election is Tuesday, November 3. The number of mail-in ballots already returned are indicating one of the largest voter turnouts in Montana history.

A car-filled rally at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds. (Steve Fullerton, Townsquare Media)
Gov. Bullock, awaiting his time on the stage. (Steve Fullerton, Townsquare Media)