Tranel Announces Second Bid for Montana Congressional Seat

The Democratic Missoula attorney and former Olympic rower is preparing to challenge U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke in a rematch for the state’s western congressional district

By Denali Sagner
Monica Tranel (D), candidate for Montana’s western Congressional District, speaks at a Flathead Democrats event at the Hilton Garden Inn in Kalispell on April 18, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Missoula attorney and former Olympic rower Monica Tranel on Monday morning announced her candidacy for Montana’s western congressional district, positioning herself as the Democratic challenger to U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, who Tranel lost to in a tight race for the seat last November.

“I got in this race to represent working Montanans against giant corporations that are making record profits, and shifting costs to everyday Montanans and small businesses,” Tranel said in a press release. “Our property taxes are rising and we’re paying record-high electricity bills, but corporations are skating by. Ryan Zinke has done nothing to keep money in Montanans’ pockets – by working for corporate interests, he’s part of the problem.”

A moderate Democrat, Tranel has positioned herself as an advocate for Montana families and business owners, given her history battling hedge funds and utilities corporations as an energy and agriculture attorney.  Last election cycle, she brought in endorsements from Democrats and moderate Republicans, including former Republican Gov. Marc Racicot and former Montana Secretary of State Bob Brown.

Tranel during her 2022 run against Zinke framed herself as a political outsider, drawing a sharp contrast between her work as a public service attorney and Zinke’s tenure in Washington, D.C., which ended in 2018 when the then Interior Secretary resigned from his position amid numerous ethics investigations.

In a campaign announcement on Monday morning, Tranel assailed Zinke’s voting record in Congress, charging the congressman with protecting corporate donors and cutting taxes for the wealthy.

“Zinke took half a million dollars from big oil, and voted to increase their profits while raising our gas prices. He promised $2 gas, but his votes made that impossible. It’s time to elect someone to Congress who’s going to prioritize people who actually live and work in Montana,” Tranel said.

Last November, Zinke won the congressional seat with 49.6% of the vote to Tranel’s 46.5%, a difference of 7,837 votes. Libertarian candidate John Lamb received 3.9% of the vote.

Zinke is expected to run for reelection for the state’s western congressional district after his recent endorsement of businessman and Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy dispelled percolating rumors that Zinke would attempt to challenge Montana’s lone Democrat in Congress, Sen. Jon Tester, in 2024.

Tranel thus far has been endorsed by 21 Democratic state lawmakers. She will host campaign launch events in Missoula, Bozeman, Kalispell and Butte this week.  

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