Former Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wins Montana GOP House primary

The open-seat race for Montana’s 1st Congressional District will be between Democratic candidate Monica Tranel and Republican candidate Ryan Zinke, who was previously a congressman from the Big Sky Country and interior secretary in the Trump administration.

Zinke, a former Navy SEAL and Montana state senator who was first elected to the House in 2014 and reelected in 2016 before resigning to join Trump’s Cabinet, narrowly won the nomination by just over 1,600 votes out of 84,500 cast between him and Al Olszewski, a former state senator and orthopedic surgeon.

Olszewski claimed to be the most conservative candidate on the ballot and hit out at his rival over questionable ethics allegations.

In a statement, the former interior secretary thanked his supporters and their “confidence that America can be fixed and for ignoring the political BS,” also extending his thanks to former President Donald Trump, Sen Steve Daines (R-MT), and GOP Gov. Greg Gianforte for endorsing him.

A government watchdog report released earlier this year found Zinke had violated ethics rules by being involved in negotiations over a land development project in Montana during his time in office and by failing to fully disclose his involvement after questioning from an ethics official.

Zinke has called the ethics investigation into his role as interior head a “political hit job” that was “false.”

Zinke will now face Tranel in November in Montana’s newly created 1st Congressional District, covering the western quarter or so of the state. Montana gained a second House seat for the first time in four decades due to strong population growth in the decade leading up to the 2020 census.

Tranel, who has practiced law for 25 years as an attorney and advocate, has said she’s the most qualified and electable candidate, arguing her qualifications stem from her deep roots in the state.

“I’ve been here with my feet on the ground, in the trenches, working for Montanans across the state,” she told Montana Public Radio last month. Tranel, who is also an Olympic rower, is endorsed by former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.



Leave a Reply