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Zinke Confirmation Triggers May 25 Election Day For Montana's Vacant US House Seat

(Photo courtesy of the Office of Steve Daines)

The U.S. Senate today confirmed Montana's former Republican Congressman, Ryan Zinke, as Secretary of Interior. Zinke resigned his House seat following the 68 to 31 vote triggering a special election in Montana to fill his congressional seat. Governor Steve Bullock made that announcement this morning just minutes after Zinke's confirmation. During his confirmation process, Zinke vowed to oppose the sale or transfer of public lands. Just before today's vote, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer from New York portrayed Zinke as a risk to the environment and public lands.

"Congressman Zinke says he's a dyed-in-the-wool conservationist, but doesn't have the record to back it up. That should concern every outdoor enthusiast and every lover of our great and grand national parks," said Schumer.

Both Montana Senators, Republican Steve Daines and Democrat Jon Tester, supported Zinke's confirmation.

In contrast to Schumer, Daines said Zinke will strike an important balance between conservation and responsible energy development.

"He understands better than anybody I know that the one-size-fits-all policies of Washington D.C. never work for real America," said Daines.

Zinke's confirmation sets the stage for a May 25th special election in Montana to fill his vacant congressional seat. Governor Steve Bullock made that announcement this morning just minutes after Zinke's confirmation.

"Discussions are being had each and every day in Washington, D.C. that could certainly impact Montanans," said Bullock.

"We have to do everything we can to make sure that a Montana voice is at that table while those discussions are there. So, given the latitude that I had, I am calling the election as soon as we possibly can."

The U.S. Constitution says that House seats must remain vacant until an election can be held. State law says the governor must call an election within 85 to one hundred days of a seat becoming vacant. May 25th is the earliest day the election could be scheduled.

Montana's political parties are scheduling conventions to nominate candidates to run for the seat. The Democrats have scheduled theirs for this Sunday in Helena.

A Republican delegate told Montana Public Radio their convention is tentatively schedule for Monday, March 6th in Helena.

Montana's Libertarian and Green parties are planning nominating conventions as well. Eight Democrats and eight Republicans have announced as candidates for their parties' nominations.

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.