Former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke defeated orthopedic surgeon Al Olszewski by 1,600 votes to be the GOP nominee in Montana’s new 1st Congressional District. Zinke will now take on Democrat Monica Tranel in November in the district, which leans about plus 10 Republican.
“Thank you Western Montana for your confidence that America can be fixed and for ignoring the political BS,” Zinke said in a statement. “We have a great team and dedicated volunteers who believe in American values.”
Zinke received the endorsements of former President Donald Trump, Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), and Governor Greg Gianforte (R-MT).
Olszewski, who has been a state senator, lost by under 2,000 votes in a primary of 84,500 votes. Both Olszewski and Zinke were hoping to take advantage of Montana’s new congressional district, which it gained by population growth.
During the primary battle, Zinke was criticized by Olszewski and others for being liberal and receiving too many out-of-state donations. According to the Helena Independent Record, about 80% of donations to the Zinke campaign were from out of state.
The initial results had been delayed due to ballot printing errors, according to the Associated Press. Ballots had been printed on the wrong size paper, leading to Lincoln County hand counting about 6,000 ballots.
While serving as Interior Secretary from 2017-2018, Zinke was hit with accusations of unethical behavior and multiple investigations, one of which said he lied to an ethics agency regarding his role with a real estate company.
The cabinet official called the investigations and accusations “vicious and politically motivated attacks” while stepping down from his position after two years. Before his role in the Trump administration, Zinke was a Navy SEAL, state senator, and Montana’s congressional representative from 2015-2017.
“Under Ryan Zinke’s leadership at the Department of the Interior, the U.S. achieved Energy Dominance, increased federal energy revenues, and responsibly opened federal acreage for energy production,” Trump said in his endorsement. “He was instrumental in expanding public access to public lands for recreation and rebuilding our National Parks and Forests infrastructure.”
Tranel, an attorney, handily won the Democratic nomination, and has accused Zinke of having a “record of corruption.” On her campaign website, Tranel highlights several issues on her campaign website including her “stand against corporate corruption,” advocacy for federal election law, and commitment to preserving “abortion access” in light of an impending Supreme Court decision some expect to overturn Roe v. Wade.