Governing vs. Campaigning

Montana deserves more moderate-voting leaders

By Mike Jopek

Freshman Congressman Ryan Zinke has raised an impressive amount of reelection money totaling $2.1 million, year-to-date. Zinke starts this month with nearly $750,000 cash-on-hand according to the Federal Election Commission.

That amount of election cash is enough to scare off most Republican primary opponents before next June.

Nearly 84 percent of Zinke’s reelection contributions come from individuals. Most of the balance comes from committees, some from Montana. Of the itemized individual contributions, one in six have Montana addresses.

Zinke’s election money originates from across the country, with every state contributing except Deleware and individuals from Dallas, Texas, giving more than any other city in the nation. Individuals from states like California, New York, Florida, Virginia, and Nevada have all contributed significantly to Zinke’s reelection.

While Zinke raised big amounts of cash, he spent $1.4 million this year, half of which went to postage and printing.

While it appears that Zinke’s team has been busy mailing-for-cash, outgoing Speaker of the House John Boehner reportedly highlighted fundraisers in the Bozeman and Whitefish areas helping boost coffers.

Freshman Zinke previously announced interest to become the new speaker of the house, a move seen as unlikely as Zinke doesn’t yet have the votes. More time in the House will help. It takes years to build trusted political relationships.

Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on the “Axe Files” podcast with David Axelrod said that most Republicans in Congress want the job of speaker; they just don’t have the votes. Republicans remain intent on electing a speaker with no Democratic votes. Many ideologues remain uncompromising within the GOP ranks.

Speaker selections are insider elections based largely upon a fraternal view of politics. In all likelihood Rep. Paul Ryan will be the next speaker with Zinke’s pledged support, while the freshman lawmaker moves up the ranks of House leadership.

When serving with Zinke in the Montana Legislature, I mostly found the Whitefish senator to be moderate. Zinke maintained a fix-it attitude and worked with then Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s administration to bring forward several solutions to help Montanans.

Even as Tea Partiers steeped the 2011 Montana Legislature, Zinke was ranked as the most moderate Republican senator in the session by the American Legislatures project, which measures the ideology of individual legislators.

So far in the 114th Congress, Zinke is ranked by the standard in political ideology measurements as among the third most moderate Republicans of the House. The roll call vote data from political scientists Howard Rosenthal and Keith Poole is publicly available and ranks the political ideology of each Congress.

GovTrack, a government transparency project, ranked Zinke as moderate in both its political ideology and leadership score. Yet farmers like me adamantly oppose some of Zinke’s cosponsored bills.

Over the years I’ve found Zinke decent to work with on many local and statewide issues. Zinke routinely voted moderate.Yet Zinke’s conversion to firebrand rhetoric turned off most progressives who hoped the congressman would return to his earlier political positions on issues like climate change. Zinke may govern more moderate than most Republicans, but he campaigns just as red-hot.

Congress hasn’t been able to fix much recently even with Republicans in control of both chambers. Currently Congress must again decide how the debt ceiling honors the full faith and credit of the nation while passing new spending bills to keep our government open. Leadership would help.

Last June Zinke edged out a primary win by splitting the Republican vote. Zinke garnered 44,000 votes to Corey Stapleton’s 39,000 to Matt Rosendale’s 38,000. Stapleton is currently running for Montana secretary of state.

Zinke raised enough election cash to scare off most Republican primary opponents. Montana deserves more moderate-voting leaders, even if they don’t much sound like centrists anymore.

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