Livingstone, Zinke Begin Ramping Up Campaign Efforts

By Beacon Staff

Last week gubernatorial candidate Neil Livingstone and running mate Ryan Zinke took a break from handing out turkeys for the holiday season and stopped in at the Columbia Falls Montana Veterans Home, a place dear to Zinke’s heart.

Zinke, a retired Navy SEAL commander, opposed efforts by fellow Republicans to privatize the Montana Veterans Home during the last Legislature. On Dec. 21, Zinke and Livingstone were greeted warmly as they shook hands and conversed with the home’s residents and employees.

“I love this,” Zinke, a state senator from Whitefish, said. “I love getting out here and talking to these guys.”

Livingstone, a security consultant from Helena, and Zinke are ramping up their campaign activity and traveling the state in a large bus that has their faces plastered on the side. Once official filing rolls around in January, they said they plan to hit the campaign trail hard and begin pouring more of their own funds into the race.

“We’re in this to win,” Livingstone said last week. “We have so many candidates in the race, the options are getting confused. We think we’re doing a lot better than the polls are showing.”

Livingstone has cooled off considerably in polls since July, when a survey by Public Policy Polling put him in second place in the Republican governor’s primary with 15 percent of the vote behind frontrunner Rick Hill at 35 percent.

In the most recent PPP poll released earlier this month, Hill, a former congressman, continued to lead by a wide margin with 37 percent of the vote, followed by former Laurel Sen. Ken Miller at 10 percent and the remaining Republican candidates below 5 percent. Livingstone was tied with Choteau County Commissioner Jim O’Hara at 3 percent.

“Rick Hill has had two years to put it away and he hasn’t done it,” Livingstone said. “That’s why there are 10 candidates running.”

Livingstone is touting his experience as a businessman. He is currently CEO and chairman of ExecutiveAction LLC, a business based out of Washington D.C. that provides security, investigative and other services.

“I’m the only candidate who has actually run a large organization,” he said.

Zinke brings name recognition and a degree of political experience in Montana to the ticket as lieutenant governor. He notes that he and Livingstone are “running as a team: I’m not just a ribbon cutter.”

While Zinke is an advocate of expanded natural resource development, he is also known to be more conservation-minded than some of his Republican counterparts, a characterization he doesn’t dispute. The senator said he believes there are ways to “responsibly” increase natural resource development in Montana while protecting assets such as rivers, which he says are “driving” the lifestyle-oriented economy of western Montana.

Ultimately, Zinke said Montana will have to increase responsible resource development to secure a strong revenue base, while seeking ways to create more value-added products within the state.

“You can’t control Montana’s destiny if you’re poor,” he said. “I reject that our resources can’t be developed responsibly.”