Montana GOP, Democrats to Select U.S. House Candidates Quickly

Timing depends on Zinke's confirmation as President-elect Trump's Interior secretary

HELENA — Montana Republicans are tentatively targeting the beginning of February to pick a candidate for U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke’s replacement, while Democrats plan to hold their own nominating convention within a week of whenever Gov. Steve Bullock calls for a special election, officials said Tuesday.

The timing depends on Zinke’s confirmation as President-elect Trump’s Interior secretary. That will trigger Bullock’s call for a special election to be held between 85 and 100 days later to fill the vacancy in the state’s one U.S. House seat.

GOP chairman Jeff Essmann said a best-case scenario is that the U.S. Senate will hold a confirmation hearing next week and then vote on Zinke by the end of the month. If that timing plays out, the Republican nominating convention will be held the first week of February, Essmann said.

Democratic Party chairwoman Nancy Keenan was not available for comment on Tuesday. Party spokeswoman Kristen Cates said Democrats don’t have a target date for their convention, but they are making preparations now to quickly hold one once Zinke leaves his congressional seat.

Both Essmann and Cates said it is important to select a candidate as quickly as possible, so that person has the maximum amount of time to run an abbreviated statewide election campaign.

“You’ve got to raise a lot of money, you’ve got to travel a big state and you’ve got no time to do it,” Essmann said.

Cates said party leaders are working with central committee members and delegates across the state to organize quickly.

“It sounds like out in (Washington) D.C. things are moving along pretty quickly, but we don’t know for sure yet,” Cates said. “It’s a floating, moving target.”

Zinke was re-elected to a second term in November before Trump picked the former Navy SEAL for his cabinet. That means Zinke’s replacement will serve nearly all of his two-year term, if Zinke is confirmed.

The Republican, Democratic and Libertarian parties will be able to nominate candidates to run in the special election. An independent candidate must turn in a petition with more than 14,200 signatures to appear on the ballot.

So far, various people have expressed interest in running, including multiple state legislators, attorneys and a musician. Republicans are requiring that those who want to be considered at the nomination convention pay a $1,740 filing fee.

“You should be serious, and frankly, from an election mechanics standpoint, this is much harder running in a special election than it is in a normal election for the House,” Essmann said. “This is going to require a lot of skill and effort.”

Democrats won’t have a filing fee for potential candidates, party officials have said.

  • Rhett the Butler

    Goopers expect candidates to pay to play.

    • Snowbird

      Filing fee is pocket change.
      Pay to play was actually Hilldebeasts MO. Give the clinton crime family foundation some money and you could get anything. Even 20% of our uranium stockpile, or audiences, or appointments, etc etc etc.
      Soros might even write her letter telling her what to do about Armenia, or was it Albania? Since he bought and paid for her, shed do anything for him

      • Rhett the Butler

        So you admit that Goopers are the party of, by and for the rich.

        See an actual incident of pay to play. Florida AG Pam Bondi dropped her investigation into Trump University then he made a $25K donation to her campaign, from his Foundation no less (that’s illegal), AND held a fundraiser for her campaign at his resort.

        • Snowbird

          No i dont admit that. remember, blue collar workers flocked to Trump and abandoned the corrupt dumbocrats who abandoned them.
          So you found one example of pay to play from a repub. congratulations,
          You ignore the hundreds of esamples from Hilldebeast, emanuel, deblasio, blagoevich et al.
          More intellectual dishonesty

          • Rhett the Butler

            Right, that’s some magical thinking that Goopers are pure as the driven snow.

          • Snowbird

            Where did I say that? I just said you ignore the facts of your sides corruption while I have often said both sides are corrupt! You did get your GED DIDNT YOU?

          • Snowbird

            Too funny, I have repeatedly stated both sides are corrupt but you refuse to acknowledge your sides corruptness. Again , no intellectual honesty

    • Gene Dziza

      Well, maybe it will spare us from having 20 candidates file. That’s all we can hope for.