HELENA — Monica Tranel, a Missoula attorney, paid her filing fee Monday to become second Democrat officially in the 2022 race for Montana’s new, open western congressional district – and said she’s the only Democrat who can win it.
“I’ve proven that I have cross-over support,” she told MTN News. “We know in Montana you cannot win without independent and cross-over support; I’ve proven I can get that.”
Tranel pointed to her showing the 2020 election, when she ran for the Public Service Commission in western Montana’s District 4.
Tranel lost that race to Republican Jennifer Fielder, by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin – but, as she noted, out-performed many statewide Democratic candidates in the seven counties that comprise the PSC district.
“It’s a different year (in 2022), but I was in a PSC race, way down-ballot – nobody even knows what that is – and I out-performed (those) other candidates,” she said.
This year, the race for Montana’s District 1 is likely to be the most-watched contest on the 2022 ballot. Seven candidates already have declared themselves in the race for a district that may lean slightly Republican, but which is seen as a potential toss-up.
District 2, the new eastern-Montana congressional district, leans solidly Republican, and incumbent U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale is seen as a strong favorite.
So far, there are no marquee statewide races on the 2022 ballot. The only statewide offices up for election this year are two Supreme Court seats, but in both contests, the incumbent justice is still without a challenger. Four weeks remain until candidate filing is closed.
Tranel and Bozeman health-policy expert Cora Neumann are the only Democrats who’ve paid their filing fee for congressional District 1. Former state Rep. Tom Winter of Missoula has declared himself a candidate and is raising money, but hasn’t yet filed.
Four Republicans already are in the District 1 race: Allen McKibben of Columbia Falls, former state Sen. Al Olszewski of Kalispell, businesswoman Mary Todd of Kalispell, and former U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
Through December, Tranel had raised $416,000 for her campaign, while Neumann led the Democratic pack in fundraising with $764,000. Winter, who entered the race several months after Neumann and Tranel, had raised just $52,000.
Tranel said Monday she’s been traveling the district for many months already, and that she’ll be emphasizing her commitment to tackle issues that help support a struggling middle class in Montana, besieged by high housing costs and other difficulties.
“I mean, people are hurting across Montana,” she said. “The wealth inequality is palpable and it’s real.”
She said she was in Seeley Lake recently and that all four houses for sale in the community northeast of Missoula were going for more than $700,000.
“A starting teacher salary is $32,000,” she said. “There are good jobs out there that are available, but we have to figure out how to have people, young families, live in our communities, make a decent wage and be able to buy a house. I mean, these are the very basic issues that we have to start with.”