Why Did Trump's Man Zinke Barely Win In Montana?
Montana U.S. House candidate and former Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, left, speaks with patrons at Metals Sports Bar and Grill on May 13, 2022, in Butte. (Matthew Brown/AP File)
A week after Ryan Zinke was declared the narrow winner in the Republican primary in Montana's Western U.S. House district, Montanans of both parties as well as national political pundits are still catching their breath.
How and why, many ask, could Zinke — Donald Trump's former interior secretary, a former congressman (when Montana had only one at-large district) and onetime Navy SEAL — eke out a win by just over 1,000 votes of more than 70,000 cast.
Zinke was finally declared the winner with roughly 41% of the vote, with 40% going to leading opponent and former State Sen. Al Olszewski and 10% to businesswoman Mary Todd.
The outcome becomes even more difficult to believe when one realizes Zinke had the strong endorsement of former President Trump as well as those of Gov. Greg Gianforte and Sen. Steve Daines — the ''big three'' for Big Sky Country Republicans.
''But Zinke also had,'' former Montana Secretary of State Bob Brown told Newsmax, ''a fair amount of 'baggage' from his time as secretary of the interior. The allegations of his misdeeds were brought up repeatedly by his principal primary opponent, 'Doc' Al Olszewski— Montana's own 'Dr. Oz.'''.
Brown, a fellow Republican, was referring to the charges of excessive spending on travel and other ethical violations that led to then-Secretary Zinke's investigation by the Interior Department Inspector General and his resignation in 2018 from the Trump Cabinet.
The Inspector General's final report concluded that Zinke had broken numerous ethics rules, but he was never prosecuted.
According to Brown, ''Olszewski emphasized his own strongly conservative record in the state Senate [and] was also able to exploit reports that Zinke may have spent more time at his wife's beautiful home in Santa Barbara since leaving Washington than in the old home Zinke still owns in Whitefish, Montana.''
Although Zinke finally edged out Olszewski, the physician candidate defeated Zinke in their home turf of Flathead County by 10,335 to 6,814 votes.
Zinke is expected to face a strong challenge this fall from Monica Tranel, a lawyer and a former Olympic athlete (rowing team). But Trump carried the district, and Zinke remains the favorite.
Zinke was the first Navy SEAL and the first Montanan since statehood to serve in the president's Cabinet. Democratic Sen. Thomas Walsh was named attorney general in 1933 by then-President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt, but he died while on his honeymoon and never got to serve.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.