Ryan Zinke, former Interior Secretary under then-President Donald Trump, has narrowly won the Republican primary for a new Montana House seat.
He beat former State Sen. Al “Doc” Olszewski by less than two percentage points, according to preliminary poll results.
Zinke, who had resigned from his cabinet member post amid numerous federal ethics investigations, earned his former boss’ endorsement in the five-candidate primary for the seat that was created due to the state’s population growth.
Zinke stepped down from his position in the Trump administration at the end of 2018 while he was the subject of more than a dozen investigations — several of which concluded with no finding of wrongdoing.
One probe found that Zinke lied to an agency ethics official about his continued involvement in a commercial real estate deal in his Montana hometown.
Other candidates in the race slammed Zinke for the investigations and also questioned his residency after it was revealed that his wife declared a house in California as her primary residence on tax forms.
His opponents also tried to paint him as a “liberal insider” despite Trump’s endorsement and his conservative record. They claimed he was too soft on guns and failed to build the former president’s US-Mexico border wall.
The results of the Republican primary were released days behind schedule due to a county error. Lincoln County had to hand count its ballots after a vendor printed the ballots on paper that couldn’t be run through a machine tabulator.
Zinke was viewed as an incumbent in the primary since he had represented Montana in a different House seat before stepping down to take the job in the Trump administration in 2017.
He will face Olympic rower and attorney Monica Tranel, who won the Democratic primary for the House seat, in November.
With Post wires