HELENA — Former U.S. Interior Secretary and GOP Congressman Ryan Zinke told MTN News on Thursday that he’s running for Congress in Montana in 2022 – in a yet-to-be-determined district he lives in, after lines for new districts are drawn in the state.
“We’ll see what the (redistricting) commission decides,” he said in an interview.
Zinke, 59 years old and a former U.S. Navy SEAL from Whitefish, had filed paperwork as a possible candidate several weeks ago, after it was announced in late April that Montana would gain a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2022.
He now has a campaign website and said he’s definitely in the race. He said he’ll be attending the state Republican Party 2021 convention in Helena on June 18.
Montana has been a single, at-large congressional district since 1992, but population shifts in the 2020 U.S. Census ended up creating an additional seat in Montana, beginning in the 2022 election.
That means Montana’s only U.S. Representative - Matt Rosendale, a Republican – likely will run for re-election in one of the districts, and the other district will be open, with no incumbent. Under federal law, a congressional candidate can run in any district in the state where he or she lives.
The five-member state Districting & Apportionment Commission is just beginning the process of determining the boundaries of the two new districts, which will be drawn by year’s end.
Zinke, on his website and in the interview, strikes a somewhat moderate tone, saying that our only real enemy is “division within our country,” and that political leaders need to work to unite the population to support the Constitution. “It was designed to make both sides work together,” he said Thursday. “I think most Americans are not socialists; they want good government … But there are a lot of Americans who maybe feel like they’re not getting the opportunities they’d like.”
Zinke was a state senator from Whitefish and also ran for lieutenant governor in 2012, with Republican gubernatorial candidate Neil Livingston, losing in the primary.
He narrowly won a five-person GOP primary for Montana’s only U.S. House seat in 2014, won the general election over Democrat John Lewis, and won re-election in 2016.
Then-President Donald Trump nominated Zinke as Interior secretary in 2017. Zinke resigned effective January 2019, not long after an investigation into possible ethics violations was referred to the U.S. Justice Department.
Zinke said the investigations into his alleged ethical lapses were the work of political opponents, and never amounted to anything – but that he resigned because he felt they had become a “distraction” for the President and because he didn’t want to have to keep personally paying for legal expenses to defend himself.
“People say that Washington, D.C., is a swamp – I think that gives swamps a bad name,” he said Thursday. “I think it’s a cesspool.”