In Montana’s June 7 primary election, voters will choose party nominations in two U.S. House races and newly created congressional districts.
On Nov. 12, 2021, the Montana Districting and Apportionment Committee approved the state’s new congressional map following the 2020 redistricting cycle and census data.
Voters will now cast ballots in Districts 1 and 2. Before redistricting, incumbent U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale (R) had represented all of Montana in Congress since his election in 2020.
Rosendale is the current GOP front-runner in District 2, heavily weighted in favor of Republicans, 60 percent versus 38 percent Democrats, according to Dave’s Redistricting, which monitors 2021 congressional districts.
Montana’s newly bifurcated demographic status pits Rosendale against three GOP challengers in District 2, which encompasses eastern Montana as the largest of the two districts geographically.
Full Slate of Candidates
Rosendale recently won the endorsement of the Montana Republican Party. His GOP opponents include Billings pharmacist Kyle Austin, Bozeman resident James Boyette, and Helena environmental contractor Charles Walking Child.
In the left-leaning District 1, former U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke—endorsed by former President Donald Trump—faces opponents Mitch Heuer, a Whitefish business owner; Matte Jette, a high school government teacher; former Montana state Sen. Al Olszewski; and pastor Mary Todd.
Running on the Democratic ticket in District 1 are Cora Neumann, a public health and public lands advocate; Missoula attorney Monica Tranel; and rural broadband contractor Tom Winter.
In District 2, the Democratic contenders are former Billings councilwoman Penny Ronning and Billings resident Skylar Williams.
Billings financial adviser Gary Buchanan is running as an Independent.
Zinke currently leads in campaign financing with $2.5 million raised to date. According to the Federal Election Commission, Rosendale has raised nearly $1.4 million.
Zinke said he is “deeply honored” to have earned Trump’s endorsement on his website.
“Together, President Trump and I fought liberal special interests to restore sanity to public land management, rebuild public lands infrastructure, take care of our forests, and make United States energy dominant,” Zinke said.
“In a few short months of Biden/Pelosi regime we’ve seen their radical plan for complete power and control. Our Western values and way of life are worth defending. I look forward to getting back in the saddle and fighting for Montana and the America First Policies.”
On the issues, Zinke is strong on fighting inflation, securing the border, promoting public access to public lands, hunting and fishing, and supporting veterans.
“It’s bad enough that the Biden-Harris Administration has already cost Montana jobs and much-needed revenue through the shortsighted cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline and the ill-fated moratorium on energy development on federal lands,” Zinke said.
Skeletons in Closet
However, he wages his campaign against a backdrop of scandals and allegations of corruption.
In 2018, Zinke stepped down as Interior Secretary amid investigations and allegations of ethics violations and working to weaken or dismantle environmental protections.
During his campaign, Zinke has come under attack on social media, with some opponents calling into question his military service in Iraq and other opponents accusing him of spending too much time outside the state.
His campaign rival, orthopedic surgeon “Dr. Al” Olszewski, seeks the GOP nomination on a Trump conservative platform of immigration reform and border security, election integrity, and controlling government spending.
A U.S. Air Force veteran, Olszewski also supports gun ownership rights, law enforcement, and safeguarding Montana’s forests and wildlife.
On his website, he said, “The federal government has failed Montana in properly managing federal lands in our state. This has led to catastrophic wildfires that destroy our clean air, pure water, and abundant wildlife.”
“They have forced Montanans off public lands by blocking our access to over 20,000 miles of public access roads and crippled ‘Made in Montana’ responsible natural resource production.”
Heuer, by contrast, takes a “systematic approach to reach the desired solution,” offering 40 years of experience with construction, engineering, and small business ownership.
“I am boots on the ground in Western Montana every day, running my small businesses in the field and the office. I am blue collar, and white collar, callused hands with a sharp mind,” Heuer said on Facebook.
In Teddy Roosevelt’s Footsteps
In Congress, Heuer said he would pursue an “arm’s length, walk tall, speak softly with a big stick and Brinkmanship approach to foreign policy. He supports the military, believing America is “about two steps from boots on the ground war with Russia.”
“With good conscious (sic), I do not believe America can stand by and watch/tolerate the attack and targeting of children and residents in Ukraine, and we only impose sanctions,” Heuer said on his website.
As a pro-constitution candidate, he opposes the “socialist-liberal” agenda and favors secure borders, judicial responsibility, affordable health care, and the right to bear arms. He said his company is currently developing a program to protect schools against mass shootings.
Pastor Mary Todd, a small business owner and “unapologetic America First conservative,” said her goal in Congress would be to preserve American values. She is pro-life and believes in secure borders, the Second Amendment, and the protection of public lands.
“We are currently in a battle for our nation’s survival between those who love America and those who hate her—between those who want to keep the American way of life and uphold our constitution and those who want to destroy it. This is a fight we must win,” Todd said on her website.
Jette said he seeks the GOP nomination in a “campaign to save America.”
“The problems Americans face are so big today because for years we kept kicking the proverbial can down the road,” Jette said on his website. “We elected people who were not up to the task or have the ability to solve problems, or who simply have been more interested in exacerbating the problems for personal and political gain and reputation.
“We must put those who, not only believe in America, but are willing to continually live a life that demonstrates that belief into office.”
He supports an innovative economy and flexible workforce and wants to put health care back in the hands of physicians. He also backs a strong military and education system that “does not reinforce bad habits or merely keeps students busy.”
Fly High, Montana
Austin said his campaign slogan “Gear Up Montana” likens the state to airplanes departing and retracting gears.
“In D.C., Montana is continually stuck in the mud and us Montanans deserve more from our elected officials,” he told The Epoch Times.
“As a pharmacist, I have focused on accelerating my patients’ health to higher altitudes and stepped forward during this pandemic. As a representative, my focus will be to move us forward while gaining altitude,” he said.
In the Democratic race for District 1, Neumann has raised $1.17 million in campaign finances, while Tranel has garnered $675,152. Winter has raised $85,000.
Neumann moves ahead with a slew of political endorsements, including former Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney and state Senators Chris Pope, Pat Flowers, and Susan Webber.
As a rural health and economic development leader with a “track record of delivering results for underserved and rural communities,” Neumann seeks to improve health care access and protect Montana’s public lands.
She said she would “make sure Montanans have access to good jobs and wages; that our small businesses can succeed; and that families who’ve lived here for years or generations can afford to stay.”
Monica Tranel, her opponent, sees the Montana she grew up in “slipping away.”
“Montana shouldn’t be used as a playground for the rich while folks in the middle can’t get ahead no matter how hard they work,” Tranel told The Epoch Times.
“If you work hard, you should be able to afford a decent place to live, support your family, and save for a secure retirement. I will support legislation that invests in the middle class in Congress instead of tax giveaways to the super-rich.”
Tranel said she would work to create a strong labor force and develop more well-paying jobs by leveraging our natural resources.
“Montana should be a leader in the energy transition. And I will take on corporate monopolies squeezing our Main Street businesses, ranchers and landowners, and all Montanans,” she said.
A GOP Voice for Native Americans
Charles Walking Child said he’s “thrown his war bonnet” in the GOP race for District 2 as a proud Native American candidate.
Walking Child said he would be a staunch constitutional conservative voice for Native Americans—and all Americans—in Congress.
“The main pressing issue is these Democrats are evil SOBs,” he told The Epoch Times. “You have a bunch of idiots out there.”
“I will be assertive and aggressive and protect our small farms and ranches” while he would oppose large corporations engaging in “economic slavery.”
“I don’t feel (Democrats) are out of touch—everybody in America knows they’re out of touch. We’ve got to go in and fix it,” Walking Child said.
In District 2, the Libertarian candidates include Billings realtor and attorney Sam Rankin, “Libertarian gadfly” Roger Roots, and Missoula resident Samuel Thomas.
John Lamb runs unopposed as the Libertarian candidate in District 1.
Montana’s June 7 primary winners will advance to the general election on Nov. 8.