Keila Szpaller

(Daily Montanan) Republican Ryan Zinke declared victory on Wednesday night in Montana’s new western district for the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I’d like to thank everyone who voted for me on Election Day and all those who volunteered with our campaign to get the word out,” said Zinke in a statement from his campaign. “For those of you who did not vote for me, my door is always open, and you’ll find me to have an open ear, open mind and shoot straight when we disagree.”

Zinke was elected to the House in 2014 and 2016, and he served as Secretary of the Interior under the administration of President Donald Trump.

He was favored to win in the district despite federal investigations that found he engaged in questionable ethical conduct. Zinke has characterized the probes as politically motivated.

Thursday morning, with all precincts reporting, Zinke had 50 percent of the vote, or 120,285. Democrat Monica Tranel had 46 percent, at 112,271, and Libertarian John Lamb had 4 percent.

In the new district, Zinke overcame a third-party candidate that political analysts and Republicans said would pull away votes from the GOP. He also outperformed Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines’ race in 2020 where Daines won by just 1.4 points against Democrat and former Gov. Steve Bullock — with no third-party candidate on the ballot.

Thursday in front of the Mansfield Library at the University of Montana, Tranel thanked her family and Montanans of the new district for participating in democracy. The Missoula lawyer ran an aggressive campaign, and she asked voters who supported Zinke to hold him accountable to his campaign promises.

“Thank you to everyone who shared your story with me over these past 18 months,” said Tranel, in tearful remarks. “I carry more of Montana and more of our shared story because of this journey we’ve taken together.”

The email from the Zinke campaign said he will travel to Washington, D.C., for new member orientation and to set up offices to serve western Montanans. He previously served on the House Natural Resources Committee and House Armed Services Committee, and the campaign said his 2023 assignments will be announced in the coming weeks.

In the email, Zinke said voters saw through the “deceit of my opponents and radical political groups,” and he pledged to continue to fight for freedom and to protect Montana’s way of life.

“I’m incredibly grateful to the people of Western Montana for once again placing their trust in me to fight for them in Washington, D.C.,” he said in the statement.