HELENA — Missoula attorney Monica Tranel has become the second Democrat to enter the 2022 race for Montana’s new congressional district, officially launching her campaign this week.
Tranel, 55, told MTN News Wednesday she can stand out in what's expected to be a crowded field by emphasizing her rural roots and her work representing consumers and small businesses against big corporations.
"I grew up in eastern Montana; I spent the last 20 years fighting for Montana," she said. "I’ve been an advocate, I’ve been in the trenches, I’ve been in the courtrooms when there were no lights, no cameras. It was just me, a lot of times, on the other side of the table from a lot of lawyers from corporate monopolies."
Tranel has a private practice representing many clients in energy cases, has been a staff attorney for the state Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, and worked for the Montana Consumer Counsel, which represents consumers in cases before the PSC.
Tranel joins state Rep. Laurie Bishop of Livingston in the Democratic primary for the yet-to-be-drawn district.
At least three other Democrats are considering the contest – former U.S. Senate candidate Cora Neumann of Bozeman, former gubernatorial candidate Whitney Williams of Missoula and former U.S. House candidate Tom Winter, also of Missoula.
Two Republicans have declared their candidacy: Former U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke of Whitefish and former state Sen. Al Olszewski of Kalispell.
Tranel filed her paperwork as a candidate with the Federal Election Commission on Monday and launched her campaign with a two-minute video, featuring shots of her as an Olympic rower. She competed in the 1996 Olympics as a rower on the United States' eight-person shell, which placed fourth, and in 2000, in the women's singles rowing competition, placing 12th.
The video also said that Republican economic policies have "destroyed the middle class," making it difficult for the average person to afford a home or earn a decent living. Tranel said those policies include tax cuts for wealthy corporations and individuals and undermining labor unions.
"The tax cuts for corporations that leave the rest of us picking up the tab are very harmful," she said.
Tranel grew up on ranches near Miles City, Ashland and Lavina in southeastern Montana and earned her law degree from Rutgers University in New Jersey.
She's twice ran for the state Public Service Commission, most recently for the commission's western Montana district in 2020, losing to Republican Jennifer Fielder by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin.
Tranel said Wednesday that her PSC campaign last year has given her a good base of support and experience as a candidate in what's sure to be a major population center of the new district.
Montana is one of several states getting a new congressional seat, reflecting population trends in the 2020 U.S. Census. A state commission will draw the district’s boundaries later this year.
Montana’s only current U.S. House member, Republican Matt Rosendale, is expected to run for re-election in one of the districts.