Montana Democrats jostle for U.S. House spot: NPR



SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Montana will elect two representatives to the United States House for the first time in 30 years. A Democrat hasn’t won a House seat in the state since 1994, and in one of the races three Democrats are running against a prominent Trump-backed Republican. Montana Public Radio’s Shaylee Ragar has more.

SHAYLEE RAGAR, BYLINE: Montana was one of six states that gained representation in Congress after the 2020 census recorded 95,000 new residents here. Ron Jarmin, then acting director of the US Census Bureau, announced the results in April last year.

(SOUND EXCERPT FROM AN ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RON JARMIN: Texas will win two seats and Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon will each win one seat.

RAGAR: Montana is the only state in US history to win back a seat it lost. Christina Barsky, a professor and election expert at the University of Montana, says this election will be a test of whether this once purple state is now red.

CHRISTINA BARSKY: So now we will have the opportunity to see if in this election we have a different representation.

RAGAR: Not only has Montana not elected a Democrat to the U.S. House since 1994, but the state has also not sent a woman to Congress since Jeannette Rankin was re-elected after being the first woman to serve – ever – on Capitol Hill. This election, says Barsky…

BARSKY: I think it’s still pending.

RAGAR: The eastern House district of the state is considered a safe Republican seat. Cook Political Report rates the state’s Western District race as politically competitive, but likely Republican. There are three Democrats, including two women, competing for their party’s nomination in the Western District.

BARSKY: I think there’s great interest from Democrats — people who vote Democratic in the state — to see greater representation in terms of electing someone from their party to Congress.

RAGAR: Last year, Democrats on the state’s Independent District Commission saw an opportunity to draw the new political boundaries in a way that would make them competitive. But the race also includes a big-name Republican.

(SOUND EXCERPT FROM AN ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Ryan Zinke, Navy SEAL…

RAGAR: Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and four other Republicans are vying for the seat.

(SOUND EXCERPT FROM AN ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Zinke helped Trump build the border wall on federal land despite opposition. He kept fentanyl and methamphetamine out of communities in Montana.

RAGAR: Zinke is the presumptive favorite on the Republican side, which has outstripped its opponents by a wide margin. He also held the position previously, from 2015 to 2017. After about two years in former President Donald Trump’s administration, he resigned in early 2019 amid several investigations into complaints against him. The agency later discovered that he failed to live up to the ethical obligations of his position. Zinke called it a political success.

(SOUND EXCERPT FROM AN ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: Ryan has my complete and total approval.

RAGAR: Zinke relies on his relationship with Trump. The pair held a 10-minute tele-rally over the phone last month.

(SOUND EXCERPT FROM AN ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: With his help and with everyone’s help, this country will be transformed.

RAGAR: Zinke has called Trump, in several interviews, a kingmaker.

(SOUND EXCERPT FROM AN ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RYAN ZINKE: I believe in President Trump and politicians, and we can get back to where America needs to be.

RAGAR: So far, Trump has a winning record for his endorsers, but there have also been losses in states like Georgia, North Carolina and Idaho for Trump-backed Republicans. The Democrats running in the Western District are Cora Neumann, a public health expert, Tom Winter, a former state legislator who works in broadband, and Monica Tranel, a longtime energy lawyer from the Montana. The three often talk about why they think they are the best person to take on Zinke. Montananese will decide tomorrow who advances in the general election and whether Trump is still a kingmaker in Montana. For NPR News, I’m Shaylee Ragar in Helena, Montana.

Copyright © 2022 NRP. All rights reserved. Visit the Terms of Use and Permissions pages of our website at www.npr.org for more information.

NPR transcripts are created in peak time by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative recording of NPR’s programming is the audio recording.

Comments are closed.