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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Four Republicans Now In The Running For Zinke's House Seat

State Senator Scott Sales (R).
Michael Wright

Three more Montana Republicans have announced their intent to replace Congressman Ryan Zinke, if he is confirmed as Secretary of the Interior next year.

State legislators Scott Sales of Bozeman and Daniel Zolnikov of Billings, along with Corvallis resident Gary Carlson, who publishes a conservative newsletter online, all say they are interested the job.

If Zinke is confirmed by the Senate, he would resign as Montana’s sole representative and a special election would be held within 100 days to elect a replacement.

Scott Saleswas elected president of the 2017 Montana Senate. He says that greater fiscal responsibility and tighter immigration laws are two of the most important issues currently facing Montanans and the country:

"I’m certainly more fiscally conservative than Ryan Zinke. I won’t be voting for any of these continued resolutions that he’s voted for. I think we should have a budget at the federal level. I think we should live within our means," Sales says.

Sales also believes that undocumented immigrants should be returned to their place of origin:

"I believe that you aren’t a country unless you have secure borders," says Sales.

Daniel Zolnikov (R) HD 45
Credit Montana Legislature
Daniel Zolnikov (R) HD 45

Representative Daniel Zolnikov, 29-years old, has also thrown his hat into the ring. He is a three-term member of the Montana House and certified Uber driver who helped pass a bill that brought the ride-sharing service to Montana. He has also worked to keep the federal government from spying on personal internet activity.

Gary Carlson is a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer and Vietnam veteran. He publishes an online blog called the "White Hat Express." In it, he has voiced opposition against relocating Syrian refugees into Montana.

Senator Ed Buttrey of Great Falls was the first to formally declare his intention to run for the seat. Buttrey is currently serving his second term in the state Senate. He sponsored the Medicaid expansion bill passed by moderate Republicans and Democrats and signed into law earlier this year.

Republican businessman Greg Gianforte, who ran unsuccessfully against Governor Steve Bullock, hasn’t yet ruled out a run for Zinke’s seat. If he does, Senator Sales says, Gianforte will face some opposition:

"He’s never held public office, so you don’t really know how he’s going to govern or how he’s going to vote," Sales says.

The candidates will have to court an assembly of party central committee members, who will choose a candidate for the U.S. House. Democrats will have to do the same to secure their party’s nomination. No Democrats have publicly expressed interest in the seat, and dates for the parties assemblies have not yet been set.

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