Zinke, Neumann lead primary fundraising in western Montana U.S. House district

Zinke, backed by Trump, Daines, has raised $1.4 million this election

By: - February 1, 2022 5:39 pm

U.S. Congressman Ryan Zinke of Montana speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore).

Former U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and public health expert Cora Neumann are both out-raising their primary opponents in the race to be the first to represent Montana’s newly created western U.S. House district as the June primaries draw nearer.

Zinke, who represented Montana’s at-large district in Congress before taking a job in the Trump Administration in 2017, raised $566,071 in the final three months of 2021, according to year-end reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission last month, and he is heading into the rest of the new year with around $715,000 on hand. He’s brought in almost $1.4 million over the course of the campaign in total.

In the Democratic primary, Neumann is leading the pack with $301,628 raised during the final quarter of 2021 and $636,609 left on hand heading into 2022. She’s raised around $770,000 in the year overall.

Montana was awarded a second congressional seat for the first time in decades last year following the completion of the 2020 U.S. Census. The prospect of an extra pickup opportunity in the state — against the backdrop of a Congress with a razor-thin Democratic majority— spurred several candidates from both parties to enter the fray, in some cases even before the state Districting and Apportionment Commission had drawn the line that would divide the two districts. Most candidates filed in what would become the state’s new western district, which leans Republican — and may do even more-so in a midterm election with a Democrat in the White House — but still provides Democrats the best shot of picking up a Montana U.S. House seat for the first time since the 1990s.

Other Democrats to mount runs in that district include attorney, former Olympian and one-time Public Service Commission candidate Monica Tranel and former state lawmaker Tom Winter, who represents the populist left wing of the party. Rep. Laurie Bishop, a member of Democratic state legislative leadership from Livingston, announced a bid but dropped out last year. Tranel raised $176,191 in the last quarter, and finished with $160,623 on hand, whereas Winter raised $42,549, plus a $10,000 personal loan, and ended the year with $30,151 on hand.

Zinke has emerged as the presumptive frontrunner in the GOP primary thanks in part to endorsements from former President Donald Trump and much of the Montana Republican establishment, including U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and Gov. Greg Gianforte. However, it’s still a competitive primary: Zinke faces former state lawmaker and orthopedic surgeon Al Olszewski, who has tried to flank the former congressman from the right, as well as Kalispell pastor Mary Todd. Olszewski raised $112,832 in the final quarter of 2021, and has $210,841 left in the war chest. Todd raised $60,697 in the end of 2021, and added further to her total with an extra $53,471 in personal loans. She has $83,171 on hand. 

In Montana’s second congressional district, incumbent Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale is dominating the field, raising $174,190 in the end of 2021 for a total of $1,083,964 over the cycle. Rosendale does not have a challenger in the primary.

Jack Ballard, a nature writer from Red Lodge and the main Democrat in the race, raised $48,717 in the last quarter and $70,818 overall, ending the reporting period with only $16,540 on hand. Penny Ronning, a Billings city councilwoman running as a Democrat in the district, has raised $14,851 total.

Candidates in both districts and across both parties have benefitted from large sums of money from out-0f-state donors. Neumann, for example, has raised $125,310 from Californians — about seven grand more than she’s raised from donors in-state, making her the only candidate who’s brought in the most cash from a state other than Montana. Zinke has netted around $50,000 from Californians and $112,000 from Texans, while Rosendale has seen around $98,000 from donors in Florida, among other states.

Political candidates often make bones of their ability to bring in small-dollar donations, though only Winter and Todd have yet to receive a donation larger than $200. Rosendale has the most money from donations $2,000 or larger, with $535,000, followed by Zinke with $397,900, and Neumann with $271,500. In all three cases, the candidates have pulled in more money from $2,000+ donations than any other category.

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Arren Kimbel-Sannit
Arren Kimbel-Sannit

Arren Kimbel-Sannit is an Arizona-bred journalist who has covered politics, policy and power building at every level of government. Before getting his dose of northern exposure, Arren worked as a reporter in all manner of Arizona newsrooms, for the Dallas Morning News and for POLITICO in Washington, D.C. He has a special interest in how land-use decisions affect working-class people, which he displayed through reporting on the epidemic of pedestrian deaths in the U.S. for the Los Angeles Times and PBS Newshour. He's also covered housing, agriculture, the Trump presidency and more.