Dan West: Candidate Background Information

My name is Dan West, and I am a Missoula native and lifelong Montana Democrat. I am responding to President Obama’s call for young Democrats to run for office by pursuing the Democratic nomination in Montana’s upcoming House election.

It is time to breathe new life into the Democratic Party. Of the current field of candidates I am the newest, but I am also the best equipped to represent Montana in Washington, DC.

I ask for your support in the upcoming nominating convention.

Policy Background

I have worked across party lines and developed strong bipartisan relationships across Capitol Hill. I spent five years working in Washington, DC, most recently as a political appointee at NASA under the Obama Administration. Before that, I worked for two western Democrats in the U.S. Senate.

My federal-level experience includes:

  • a global economic perspective working on the Senate Finance Committee Trade Team under Chairman Baucus,
  • a balanced Western public land and energy perspective working for Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, and
  • a big picture science perspective working at NASA.


My father grew up on a farm in northern Indiana. His father, my grandfather and namesake, founded Heifer International, a global poverty relief program built around livestock donations. My mother grew up in Seoul, South Korea, and attended Indiana University on scholarship. She worked at the University of Montana for over 20 years administering a NASA-funded research group led by Nobel laureate Dr. Steve Running. My family moved to Montana when I was one year old after my father was named Director of the Mike Mansfield Center at UM. My younger sister, who is a musician, and I both attended UM. My parents’ work gave me the opportunity to meet Mike Mansfield and to attend a NASA rocket launch, both experiences that fostered my love of science and politics, and shaped my career.


I am a proud product of the Montana public school system, having attended schools in Missoula including the Learning and Belonging Preschool on the University of Montana Campus, Lewis and Clark Elementary, Washington Middle School, Sentinel High School, and the University of Montana. In high school, I played soccer and lettered in swimming, cross country, and orchestra. I played violin in the Missoula Youth Symphony and Montana All-State Orchestra. I had the opportunity to work as the Mascot Assistant to Monte the Bear at Griz football games, as a log skinner on a ranch in Philipsburg and raft guide and kayak instructor on the Clark Fork River. These early work experiences instilled in me a strong love for this state.


I possess a unique combination of qualities:

  • My background would allow Democrats to outwardly support diversity and inclusion, Montana’s Democratic Party Rule #1.
  • I am the only candidate in the field with Washington, DC experience.
  • I worked in the education and outdoor recreation sectors in Montana, so I can speak with authority on winning issues like education and public lands.
  • I received a teaching license in Physics from the Montana Office of Public Instruction in 2007. I worked for World Class Kayak Academy, Missoula County Public Schools, and Sylvan Learning Center. I was also a private tutor, and I taught a math bridging course for incoming graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University-Australia.
  • I have strong connections to Montana’s outdoor community through whitewater kayaking and raft guiding. During and after college, I worked for Tarkio Kayak Adventures and ZooTown Surfers, and coached at World Class Kayak Academy.
  • I have extensive campaign experience from working on Jon Tester’s 2012 campaign, Mark Udall’s 2014 campaign in Colorado, and for the Bullock/Juneau coordinated campaign this past fall. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t.
  • At 30 years old, I am the youngest Democrat seeking this office. I am a candidate who can energize younger voters, and who also possesses the knowledge and maturity to communicate with older voters.


Because of my background and experience, I understand the issues important to western voters in this cycle:

  • Providing college debt relief and expanding access to quality education for all
  • Commodities and conservation provisions in the Farm Bill
  • Trade policies that ensure strong Montana export opportunities
  • Public lands issues such as advocating for more diverse energy and recreation jobs on public lands, pushing for better wildfire and timber management in National Forests, defending essential funding programs like Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), investing in National Park infrastructure, and fighting federal land disposal efforts
  • Getting Montana priorities included in any possible infrastructure package that may move through Congress this year
  • Investing in Montana’s future through job creation, education and public health
  • Social and economic equality and justice


Finally, from my campaign experience in 2012, 2014, and 2016, I fully appreciate the utmost importance of getting out the vote. I wrote a recent op-ed about it which ran in the Missoulian and the Billings Gazette. Voting will be the central theme of all my messaging throughout the campaign.

For these reasons, I believe I am the candidate best equipped to run for this particular position, and I ask for your support at the upcoming nominating convention.

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