HELENA — In the GOP primary race for Montana’s new congressional seat, former Congressman Ryan Zinke said Monday he raised about $600,000 for his campaign during the past three months – or twice the amount of his opponent, former state Sen. Al Olszewski.
Zinke, who was U.S. Interior secretary under then-President Donald Trump from 2017 to early 2019, announced late this spring he would run for Montana’s new seat, whose boundary has yet to be drawn.
Olszewski, an orthopedic surgeon from Kalispell, joined the race soon thereafter, saying he’s the “true conservative” in the contest and essentially challenging Zinke from the right. He has the support of many conservative Republican state lawmakers.
Olszewski revealed his fundraising totals Monday morning, saying he met his goal of raising $300,000 in the past three months – including $10,000 from his own pocket.
“It was a big goal, and we reached it, and this was raised with over 600 donors, and over 90 percent are from Montana,” he told MTN News.
Olszewski ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2020 and U.S. Senate in 2018, losing both times in the GOP primary.
Three Democrats also are in the contest for Montana’s new congressional seat and a fourth is considering it as well.
A five-member commission will be deciding the district boundary within the next few weeks.
Zinke, a former U.S. Navy Seal, has shown himself to be a prodigious campaign fundraiser in the past, using a national network of donors to raise $4.6 million for his successful 2014 run for Montana’s sole U.S. House seat and $6 million for his 2016 re-election campaign.
He resigned the congressional post in 2017 after being confirmed as Interior secretary. That resignation led to the election of Republican and current Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte as congressman, in a May 2017 special election. Gianforte left his congressional seat in 2020 to run for governor.
Zinke resigned his Interior post in early 2019, in the wake of several ethics investigations. Zinke has denied any wrongdoing and points out that, to date, none of the investigations has confirmed any misconduct on his part.