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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Tester: Zinke's House Replacement Needs 'Fire In The Belly'

Sen. Jon Tester
U.S. Senate

This morning, Congressman Ryan Zinke confirmed reports that he was nominated to serve as the next Secretary of the Interior. Montana’s senior senator, Democrat Jon Tester, was in Helena today, and spoke with MTPR's Capitol Reporter Corin Cates-Carney, about Zinke’s nomination.

Tester hopes Zinke will work to promote access to America’s public lands and, as Interior secretary, maintain key federal government trust responsibilities with Native American tribes:

"I think that being a Westerner, he brings a perspective that I think, I hope, we will be able to appreciate," Tester says. "It’s a big job. A lot of people. A big country. A lot of federal lands in the West."

Zinke’s nomination has turned state politics into a frenzy the last few days with party leaders trying to find out who could replace the freshman congressman in the U.S. House.

Tester declined to name a specific person, when asked who he thought would make a good replacement for Zinke:

"I think we’ve got a ton of really good people, on both sides of the aisle quite frankly, that could do a good job in Washington D.C. And you’ve got to have a fire in the belly to run for Congress, run for the Senate. If you don't have that fire, you're not gonna win. So it’s going to require somebody to have a fire in the belly, and I don't know who's got it, and who doesn’t at this point." 

If a Republican wins the House seat, it could provide the state GOP with a possible candidate to challenge Tester’s Senate position in 2018. Before Zinke’s nomination, he was considering a run against Tester.

Tester says Zinke’s recent selection to Donald Trump’s cabinet won’t have an effect on his re-election campaign.

And, as for outgoing Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell, Tester has nothing but praise:

"The problem with Sally Jewell is that she was only secretary of Interior for four years," Tester says.

If Ryan Zinke’s nomination is confirmed by the Senate, he will become the 52nd Interior secretary.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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