The race for Montana’s single seat in the House was called early this morning. With 98 percent of precinct reporting, Ryan Zinke has over 57 percent of the vote to Denise Juneau’s 39 percent that’s as of about 5:30 this morning.
Zinke spent the long wait for final election results chatting with about 100 supporters at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake in Whitefish. The successful incumbent accepted a concession call from former state superintendent of public instruction Denise Juneau just after midnight. His address to his few-dozen remaining fans was a stream of “thank you's” to his family, staff and supporters.
"One thing that is so special about Montana, as you go across her is she's big, she's beautiful, but also, really good people," says Zinke. "And I am so honored to be your congressman."
Earlier in the night, Zinke said his top priorities returning to Congress are the upcoming revision of the Farm Bill, addressing problems he sees in healthcare and state water compacts. He said this election has divided the country but said he remains optimistic.
"At the end of the day what's happening here, is our last line of defense is the American people," says Zinke.
Democrat Denise Juneau didn’t give a concession speech last night, because the race was called just about half an hour after she’d thanked supporters at her watch party in Missoula, and told them to check the results in the morning. In that address to the crowd assembled at the Top Hat night club, Juneau said she was proud of her campaign.
"I ran and started this run for Congress, not so I could get a job in Washington, DC, but so I could go to DC and make a difference," says Juneau. "I ran to put Montana’s land, people and economy first."
Shortly after the race was called, Juneau issued a statement saying she’d called Congressman Zinke to congratulate him. It further read, quote, “It’s OK to be disappointed, but we should not be discouraged.”
Juneau, who grew up in Billings and on the Blackfeet Reservation, ended her remarks in Missoula last night with a quote from her father.
"At every step of my career," says Juneau, "he tells me, 'Not bad for a girl from Browning.'"