Keila Szpaller

(Daily Montanan) Incumbent Republican Ryan Zinke once again cut through the competition in a primary election to continue his bid representing Montana’s western Congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to early results — setting up another battle with Democrat Monica Tranel.

The Associated Press had called the primary for Zinke over GOP challenger Mary Todd, a church leader, less than one hour after polls closed. Zinke had 75% of the votes to Todd’s 25%, albeit with most of the counting still ahead.

Tranel, a Missoula lawyer and Olympic rower, ran an aggressive campaign against Zinke in 2022. However, in the general election, Zinke won by four points with a Libertarian also on the ballot.

In 2022, Montana went from having an at-large district for the U.S. House to having two districts, one in the east and one in the west. Democrats have been optimistic they might make inroads in the west.

Zinke, however, has been a formidable opponent. The former U.S. Navy Seal was also elected to the U.S. House in 2014 and 2016.

Under the administration of former President Donald Trump, Zinke was tapped to serve as Secretary of the Interior and was confirmed in March 2017.

He resigned in early 2019 in the midst of multiple ethics investigations — which he described as politically motivated.

In 2022, Zinke, who lists an address in Whitefish, picked off four primary challengers despite the pall of numerous federal investigations that found he had engaged in questionable conduct.

Eventually, he took down both Tranel and Libertarian John Lamb in the general election with 50% of the vote. Tranel took 46% of the vote, and Lamb took 4%.

This year, Tranel was unopposed in the primary, and national Democratic groups plan to invest in flipping the seat, according to the Cook Political Report.