MISSOULA, Mont. — The Montana political scene is buzzing with excitement over our newly regained second U.S. House seat.
Last week, NBC Montana reported that former Interior Secretary and former U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke is throwing his hat in the ring. Now, we have confirmation that several others on both sides of the aisle are considering jumping into this race.
This list of names only includes people NBC Montana spoke to directly, meaning there are likely many others considering a run not on this list.
On the Republican side, in addition to Zinke, former U.S. Senate candidate and former State Rep. Russ Fagg says he’s considering a run, but he’s waiting to see how the district lines fall.
Dr. Al Olszewski, a former state representative who also ran for governor, says his intention is to be on the ballot. He says he’s in the process of organizing and creating an exploration committee, but has not made an official announcement yet.
Brad Johnson, the current public service commissioner for district 5, says he’s absolutely considering a run for U.S. House. Johnson was the Republican nominee for the western district in 1990, the last time Montana had a general election for two seats. He lost to Democratic U.S. Rep. Pat Williams. He said this would be like closing the circle but was very clear he wouldn’t run if the district lines put him in current Rep. Matt Rosendale’s district.
On the Democratic side, Williams’ daughter Whitney Williams, who ran for governor in 2020, sent a statement to NBC Montana saying, “Folks are encouraging me to run for the seat my Dad once proudly held. It’s a real honor to be asked and I am considering it. We need strong representation for working folks in the Congress and Washington could certainly use more Montana sensibility so it’s good we're getting the seat back.”
Former House candidate and former State Rep. Tom Winter is also thinking about a run, along with former U.S. Senate candidate Cora Neumann. Neumann says multiple national organizations reached out to her when Montana’s second seat was announced, asking her to seriously consider it.
State Sen. Shane Morigeau and former Attorney General candidate Kimberly Dudik, who also held a seat in the state House, confirmed they are also mulling it over. Morigeau says while he is considering it, he’s still committed to winning his Senate seat.
We reached out to several other people whose names are circulating in political circles but didn’t hear back by news time.
There’s also a list of people who tell NBC Montana they will not be pursuing the seat. That list includes former Gov. Steve Bullock and former Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney on the Democratic side and former Attorney General Tim Fox on the Republican side.
We still have about six months before we will know what the new congressional districts look like, and we’re 10 months out from the filing deadline. Based on initial interest, it’s likely Montana will see a highly competitive primary on both sides of the aisle next June.