Gianforte enters race for Zinke U.S. House seat - KXLH.com | Helena, Montana

Gianforte enters race for Zinke U.S. House seat

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Greg Gianforte Greg Gianforte

Republican former gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte Wednesday officially entered the race to succeed Montana Congressman Rep. Ryan Zinke, who’s been tapped as President Donald Trump’s Interior secretary.

Late Wednesday, Gianforte sent an email to Montana Republican Party delegates that will choose the party’s nominee for the race to succeed Zinke, confirming that he’ll be a candidate.

“This race will be ground zero and the first official battle waged by the Democrats to stop the Trump/Republican agenda,” he wrote. “I simply will not stand by and allow that to happen.”

Gianforte’s email confirmed what had been rumored and reported for weeks: That he would be a leading candidate for the nomination, which will be decided at a party convention, probably next month.

He also said he has the support of more than 100 voting delegates to the nominating convention, representing 139 total votes -- enough to win a majority at the convention. Most of the delegates are Republican Party county central committee officials. 

So far, five people have paid the Montana Republican Party's $1,740 fee to compete for the nomination: Gianforte, state Sen. Ed Buttrey of Great Falls, former state Sen. Ken Miller of Laurel, real estate investor Drew Turiano of East Helena, and Dwayne Rehbein, a Missoula contractor. State Senate President Scott Sales of Bozeman and state Rep. Carl Glimm of Kila also have said they'll compete as well, but have yet to pay the fee. 

And, four Democrats have said they're in the race, too, according to party officials: State Reps. Amanda Curtis of Butte and Kelly McCarthy of Billings, musician and songwriter Rob Quist of Creston and Bozeman attorney John Mayer. The Montana Libertarian Party also will nominate a candidate for the special election. 

The nominees would compete in a special election that would be called within 85-to-100 days of Zinke resigning his House seat.

A U.S. Senate committee is scheduled to vote next Tuesday whether to forward Zinke’s nomination to the full Senate, which must vote whether to confirm him as U.S. Interior secretary.

Once the confirmation occurs, Zinke will resign his House seat.

Gianforte, the co-founder of a Bozeman software development firm that was sold to Oracle Corp. in 2014 for $1.8 billion, ran for governor last year, losing a close race to Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock. Gianforte spent nearly $6 million of his own money on the campaign.

While Gianforte has long been involved in Republican Party politics in Montana, 2016 was his first run for office.

In his email, Gianforte told delegates that he wants to "join the fight to drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C., and will support a balanced federal budget, term limits for members of Congress and a ban on members of Congress becoming lobbyists.

He also predicted that the "Obama-Clinton-Pelosi political machine" will help generate millions of dollars in campaign funds for the Democratic candidate in the race, and asked for financial support.  

About Mike Dennison

MTN Chief Political Reporter Mike Dennison joined MTN News in August 2015 after a 23-year career as a newspaper reporter covering Montana politics and state government. While some may believe that politics are boring, Mike firmly believes that's not the case if you tell the story with pizzazz and let people know why the story is important.
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