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Elections

Rosendale Wins GOP Primary; Zinke Race Too Close to Call

The incumbent congressman handily won his bid to represent Montana's eastern district; ballot-counting continued in the race for the state's newly created second seat

By AMY BETH HANSON
Matt Rosendale speaks during the Glacier Country Pachyderm Club's meeting on Sept. 16, 2016. Beacon file photo

HELENA – Montana’s lone congressman handily won the GOP primary in his bid for a second term Tuesday as ballot-counting continued in the race for the state’s newly created second seat in the U.S. House.

U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale easily fended off three Republican primary challengers, while former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was locked in a tight primary race for the other seat with former state Sen. Al “Doc” Olszewski of Kalispell. No votes had been reported from Lincoln, Glacier and Beaverhead counties by midnight.

Zinke, who served as a Cabinet member under then-President Donald Trump, is running for the seat to represent the western part of the state after Montana was granted a second representative due to population growth documented in the 2020 census.

It’s technically an open seat, but the former Navy SEAL was widely considered the de facto incumbent since he twice won elections for the state’s then-only U.S. House seat before stepping down in 2017 to join the Trump administration as Interior secretary.

Zinke’s opponents have drawn attention to his troubled tenure at the Department of Interior, which was marked by multiple ethics investigations. Olszewski has tried to paint Zinke as a “liberal insider.”

On the Democratic side, Olympic rower and attorney Monica Tranel won the western district primary over public health advocate Cora Neumann and former state Rep. Tom Winter.

In the state’s eastern other district, Rosendale, who has Trump’s endorsement, will face Billings councilmember Penny Ronning, a Democrat, in the general election.

Rosendale, who was in Washington, D.C., said it was an honor to be nominated to run for a second term and said the economy is the main issue he’s hearing about from constituents.

“It’s the kitchen table. It’s the inflation, the cost of everything going up, the supply chain problems that are affecting everything from the grocery store to the manufacturer located in the industrial park and then the cost of fuel,” he said.

The problems, Rosendale said, can be traced back to overspending by President Joe Biden’s administration, COVID-19 related mandates that kept people from working freely and the administration shutting down oil and gas leasing.

In one Supreme Court race, incumbent Ingrid Gustafson and James Brown, an attorney and member of the Public Service Commission, advanced to the general election. District Court Judge Mike McMahon of Helena finished third.

In the other Supreme Court race on the ballot this year, incumbent Jim Rice and his challenger, Billings attorney Bill D’Alton, both advance to the general election.

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