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Montana’s First Congressional District candidates: Ryan Zinke

Incumbent Republican Ryan Zinke is seeking reelection in the district which spans 16 counties
Ryan Zinke Profile
Posted at 1:16 PM, May 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-17 10:29:19-04

MISSOULA — The 2024 Primary election for who will represent Montana’s First Congressional District is on June 4.

The district, created in 2023, covers 16 counties in western Montana.

Ahead of the vote, MTN’s Kathryn Roley sat down with the Democratic and Republican candidates for an interview, asking their ideas about housing, the drug crisis, inflation, and abortion rights.

We interviewed incumbent Rep. Ryan Zinke. The Republican served in the Montana Senate from 2009 to 2013 and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2015 to 2017. He also served as the U.S. Secretary of the Interior under President Donald Trump from 2017 to 2019.

Below are excerpts from the conversation.
Kathryn: Why did you choose to run again, knowing that you’re facing two opponents you’ve faced in the past? Walk me through that decision to run again for that congress seat.

Zinke: Clearly our country is in trouble. The Biden administration is going in the wrong direction. This is what happens when we don’t pay attention to the country and the state, and I think everyone to their duty station. My duty, as I see it is — I sit on appropriations, I sit in the House of Representatives. I’m a former secretary, the only serving former secretary, and I’m making sure Montana has a voice.

Kathryn: What would you do as a representative to the U.S. House when it comes to reproductive rights for women in Montana and across the country?

Zinke: Well, I think Roe v. Wade was the right decision in this state. In Montana, where does Montana sit as far as the legislature and government side? It’s 20 weeks with exceptions. Europe is 12. I am not an advocate for banning or zero tolerance, no. I am an advocate for letting the states have a say — and in this case, Montana has said 20 weeks. I think this is acceptable. But the other side of the coin is that we need to make sure that birth control is widely available.

Kathryn: Fentanyl has had a dramatic increase in Montana and the country as well. We’re seeing crime rates as well as drug-related deaths go up. What would you do to lower drug-related deaths and drugs coming into the nation and Montana, as well as reduce crime rates to keep communities safe?

Zinke: Let’s go back to the root cause. It’s no border. When I say ‘no border’, there’s a lack of any policing and any securing of our southern border. Our northern border is wide open. We just don’t have the numbers coming through our northern border. Along with not having a border, comes sex trafficking, sex trafficking, drug trafficking, fentanyl. By the way, the number one killer of youth is fentanyl, and we’re seeing it across Montana. In Butte, we’ve had deaths and overdoses are now commonplace — especially on the Indian reservations. So one is that you’ve got to secure the southern border, and two, you’ve got a lot of really bad people here that are part of the Mexican cartel. You’re going to have to go after these people. No sanctuary city, no place safe in the United States. If you’re dealing in drugs or sex trafficking, let it be known that our law enforcement at the national, federal, and local level are going to go after you.

Kathryn: Montana is home to a very large population of veterans. How would you support, continue to support, or support, the veterans at a federal level to ensure that they’re getting the benefits they need and the support and resources that they need across the country and Montana?

Zinke: Certainly as a veteran, but also my wife was involved in the VA transition team. She has a passion for spouses of veterans. As a veteran, you know, over the course of time some things have changed. On the VA, you have an older generation — particularly in Vietnam or Korea — that has different needs than our younger generation, although there is some overlap. The younger generation prefers access and flexibility. The older generation, more brick-and-mortar. The VA itself is entirely too bureaucratic. And, quite frankly on the VA, we need to reorganize it on the national level.

Watch the full interview with Rep. Ryan Zinke below:

Full interview: Ryan Zinke