White nationalist and part-time Whitefish resident Richard Spencer said Friday he’s considering running for the congressional seat that would be vacated if Republican U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke’s nomination for Interior Secretary is confirmed.
“I’m definitely thinking about it,” said Spencer, speaking with the Missoulian by telephone from Union Station in Washington, D.C., where he was waiting to catch a train. “To be honest, I recognize it would be a difficult process. I recognize all the difficulties of it. But I think it might be a great prospect. I believe it would create an important conversation around Montana and the country.”
Spencer said that while it would be “more pragmatic” to run as a Republican, “the fact is, I’m an independent person. I disagree with Republicans on a number of issues.”
The GOP candidate in a special election would be chosen by the party. Likewise, the Democratic Party would select its candidate.
Jeff Essmann, said that as chairman of the Montana Republican Party, he couldn’t comment on “the merits of any candidate or share my personal views on any of them.” However, he added, “in most corners of Montana, a Spencer candidacy would be viewed skeptically.”
A Montana Democratic Party response sent Friday included a statement from party chair Nancy Keenan: “To be clear, Richard Spencer’s views are not Montanans’ views. We’ve called on the Montana GOP to denounce this kind of racism in their party this year and we will continue to hold Republicans accountable for this fear-mongering behavior as we move toward a special election to fill this U.S. House seat.”
Spencer heads an organization called the National Policy Institute, which describes itself as "dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world."
Two weeks after the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, the group held a meeting in Washington that ended with Spencer calling out “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” as some in the audience of about 200 gave Nazi salutes.
Trump announced this week that Zinke, who won his second term to the U.S. House last month, was his choice for Interior Secretary. An election to fill his seat must be held between 85 and 100 days of Zinke's official resignation from his House seat, according to the Montana Secretary of State’s Office.
In order to run as an Independent, Spencer would have to submit a petition with 15,000 verified signatures 75 days before the election, according to that office.
“I have some time,” Spencer said Friday. “It’s not just something you just jump into.”
Spencer, who lives part of the year in the Washington area, said he would figure out the “how” later.
“I think creating the conversation would be important,'' he said. "But I would never do something eccentric or quixotic. I don’t think the conversation would be confined to Montana. It would reach millions of people outside the state, too. It would not be a fringe conversation.”