October 6, 2022
The open-seat race for Montana's 1st Congressional District will be between Democratic candidate Monica Tranel and Republican candidate Ryan Zinke, who was previously a congressman from the Big Sky Country and interior secretary in the Trump administration.

The open-seat race for Montana’s 1st Congressional District will be between Democratic candidate Monica Tranel and Republican candidate Ryan Zinke, who was previously a congressman from the Big Sky Country and interior secretary in the Trump administration.

Zinke narrowly won the nomination in Tuesday’s voting over Al Olszewski, a former state senator and orthopedic surgeon. Olszewski claimed to be the most conservative candidate on the ballot and hit out at his rival over ethics allegations. Zinke will now face Tranel in November in Montana’s newly-created 1st Congressional District, covering the western quarter or so of the state. Montana gained a second House seat for the first time in four decades, due to strong population growth in the decade leading up to the 2020 census.

Zinke was interior secretary from 2017 until his resignation in 2019 during a federal ethics investigation that found he misused his position to move ahead with development projects in the state without disclosing the details of his personal involvement. Zinke held what at the time was Montana’s lone House seat for a term after his 2014 election, following a career in the Navy SEALS and then four years in the state Senate.

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Tranel, who has practiced law for 25 years as an attorney and advocate, has said she’s the most qualified and electable candidate, arguing her qualifications stem from her deep roots in the state.

“I’ve been here with my feet on the ground, in the trenches, working for Montanans across the state,” she told Montana Public Radio last month. Tranel is also endorsed by former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

Zinke has been endorsed by Trump and previously called the ethics investigation into his role as Interior head a “political hit job” that was “false.” He has rebuked President Joe Biden for seeking “foreign shores for oil instead of Montana, North Dakota and Texas” and touted his experience in the Trump administration for helping the U.S. become “energy dominant.”

The two nominees will now face off in the November general election, which will mark the first time in several decades that voters will decide on two House representatives in the same election.

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Montana’s primary elections are unique in that the state has open primaries, meaning residents can choose which candidate they prefer regardless of the political party they are registered under.

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