Ryan Zinke: 'My Concern Is After The Election'
Candidates running for office in Montana are barnstorming around the state trying to pull in votes before November 8.
On Thursday, Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke spent a couple of hours at the Blue Moon Nite Club in Columbia Falls. He didn’t make a speech or draw attention to himself, but shook hands and talked to anyone who approached him. He asked for Big Sky IPA when a couple of people offered to buy him beers.
It was a little loud in the night club, so I asked him to step outside and we spent a few minutes talking under the bar’s awning as traffic sped by on rain-splashed Highway 40.
Eric Whitney: We’re less than two weeks to Election Day, how are you feeling?
Ryan Zinke: I’m feeling good, confident that I’m going to win. My concern is after the election, I think the danger is we become so divided as a country that the problems we face are not getting any better unless we address them. It’s going to take both sides to work as Americans.
EW: It’s not implausible that you might find yourself working with a Clinton White House. Based on what you just said, do you think you can work with a Clinton White House and get things done?
RZ: This where you got to put higher purpose in our country first. Whoever gets through this election, the issues aren’t going to go away. We’re going to have to work with whoever is in the White House to get things accomplished. If Ms. Clinton wins, then it’s my responsibility and duty to make sure I articulate Montana values and what’s important to Montana, and convince my opponents that we’re right and work together to achieve them.
EW: Mr. Trump's recent comments about accepting the results of the election, how did those strike you? What are your thoughts on that?
RZ: I know about Montana. I’ve never seen any widespread tomfoolery in Montana. You hear about it here and there, but I’ve went around to every clerk and talked, coffee and things, and they’re here and there, but nothing that would suggest that (voting) in Montana is rigged. Nationally, when you travel around, Philadelphia? I don’t know. I do know that I represent Montana, and I don’t think Montanans look the other way when someone is cheating.
EW: I know Ms. Clinton and other people have called his comment about not necessarily accepting the results of the election destabilizing and threatening to democracy.
RZ: I don’t think there’s anything more destabilizing than some of the things that Clinton does, too. But after this, regardless of who wins, we have to be Americans first. This is before being a Republican, a Democrat, a Libertarian, we have the Green Party—all of us. We have to be Americans first, and if we do that, then the challenges we face, we can meet them.
EW: Last time you talked to someone from Montana Public Radio it was Sally Mauk, who happened to be on the same flight with you, I think. It was right after Mr. Trump’s comments, about disparaging women and the sexual assault related remarks.
RZ: A nice person, we were sitting down and had a long conversation. I think she felt like I did. You can’t defend Donald Trump for what he said. It was undefendable.
EW: She asked you about that, she said, “You’ve been a vocal Trump supporter in the past. In light of these comments do you still support him?” At the time you said, “I do at the moment.” Three weeks later, do you still support him?
RZ: I think we can say that both candidates are flawed. For me, I do support Mr. Trump because what’s important to me is the Supreme Court, it’s making sure that we have secure borders and making sure that we don’t support corruption.
EW: What is it about Donald Trump that you like?
RZ: I’ll go back to three things; I think his choice in the Supreme Court was brilliant. I think his judgment on Vice President. His kids are good, as a father he must have done something right to have great kids. His business is brilliant. He is successful, when you’re a billionaire, you are successful. There is no doubt about that, undisputable. That’s what I like about Mr. Trump. Do I think that Mr. Trump has a big mouth? I think America sees that too, but it doesn’t make Hillary a better candidate.
EW: What do you want Montanans to think about as they’re making those decisions on Election Day?
RZ: I think that they should know that Montana voices count. With me, I’ve never thought it was important for people to be a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian. To me, is it, do you love our country? Do you want to see a better future? And are you willing to work together to see it? I think that’s where we need to be, post-election is, come America, let’s do what’s right. Let’s be American.
We’ll check in with Ryan Zinke’s Democratic challenger Denise Juneau at one of her campaign stops in a few days. Find more Montana election news here.