Jonathon Ambrarian

BOZEMAN (KPAX) - Montana’s just a few weeks away from choosing two U.S. House members, for the first time in 30 years.

In the race for the new western congressional district, Democrat Monica Tranel and Republican Ryan Zinke are drawing big contrasts.

Zinke says, as he seeks to return to Congress, he’s hearing from voters concerned about issues of affordability, inflation and spending.

“The things that are hurting are inflation — energy costs too much, fertilizer’s too much,” he said during an MTN congressional debate in Bozeman earlier this month.

Zinke said, in order to get inflation under control, federal spending needs to slow down and more needs to be done to lower energy costs.

He positioned himself as a check on President Joe Biden’s agenda.

“You can’t have affordable housing when inflation is running above 10%, which it is, because of the policies of the Biden administration,” he said.

On the housing issue, Zinke said addressing inflation would be a necessary first step, to stop the rise in interest rates.

He also called for incentivizing multi-family development and assisting first-time homebuyers.

Zinke, a retired Navy SEAL, was elected to represent the entire state of Montana in the U.S. House in 2014 and 2016.

In 2017, he joined President Donald Trump’s cabinet, spending two years as U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

At the debate, he touted his record of supporting energy development in that position, including oil and gas leasing.

“I’m not hydrocarbon-centric, I’m all of the above,” he said. “But hydrocarbons – when you’re gonna kill it, you kill Montana’s economy and its national security.”

Zinke said he’s firmly against any additional gun control measures.

He described himself as pro-life and believes there should be limits on abortion, but said he opposes outright bans because of “dire circumstances.”

“It’s difficult to legislate all of them, because you can’t imagine what those circumstances are,” he said. “I am a father, and I’m also a husband, and I understand there are circumstances, there’s rape, there’s incest, there’s dire circumstances that are not conceived or could be legislated.”

As Zinke asks voters to give him another term in the House, he says change is needed at the federal level, and he’s the one ready to bring it.

“We need to bring transparency back to our federal employees and federal government, particularly in Washington, D.C.,” he said.