BILLINGS – Greg Gianforte will seek the Republican nomination to replace Rep. Ryan Zinke in the U.S. House.
The Bozeman tech entrepreneur and 2016 gubernatorial candidate informed Montana Republican central committee members of his decision in a Wednesday email after paying the GOP's required $1,740 candidate filing fee.
"The direction of our country will be decided in the coming months and I decided to undertake this challenge because you deserve to have your voice heard and a champion who will always be on Montana’s side," Gianforte wrote in the email.
"Let me make this abundantly clear: this race will be ground zero and the first official battle waged by the Democrats to stop the Trump/Republican agenda. I simply will not stand by and allow that to happen. I’m ready to fight for our shared Montana values — and what a fight it will be!"
Zinke is President Donald Trump's pick to be U.S. Interior secretary. A special election will be held to fill Zinke's seat within 85 to 100 days of his resignation, which will come when the U.S. Senate confirms Zinke. That confirmation could take place in the next few weeks.
Roughly a dozen people have expressed interest in the state’s lone congressional seat. There will be no primary for voters to narrow the field. Instead, political parties will hold nominating conventions with each party’s central committee members selecting a candidate.
Gianforte’s interest had been rumored since December, but the Republican has kept his decision quiet. With a year of campaigning unsuccessfully for governor, Gianforte has already put more than 30,000 political ads before Montanans. The creator of Bozeman-based RightNow Technologies, a company that sold to Oracle for $1.8 billion in 2014, spent more than $5 million of his own money getting his name out.
In the election, Gianforte received 46.5 percent of the vote and trailed Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock by 19,818 votes.
Gianforte’s interest began driving lesser-known candidates from the race last week.
“It is obvious that Greg Gianforte already has enough votes to win the selection at the convention,” said Gary Carlson, Republican House hopeful from Corvallis. “Therefore, unless Greg Gianforte decides not to run, I will discontinue my campaign for Ryan Zinke's House Seat and consider other ways that I can still be of service.”
Other Republicans to pay the candidate fee interested in the seat include former state legislator Ken Miller, of Laurel; state legislator Ed Buttrey, of Great Falls; Drew Turiano, of East Helena, and Dean Rehbein, the vice president of Riverside Contracting in Missoula.
Republicans expressing interest, but not paying the candidate fee, include legislators Daniel Zolnikov, of Billings; Scott Sales, of Bozeman, and Carl Glimm, of Kila; as well as Eugene Graf IV, a Bozeman developer.
Democrats who have expressed interest in running include Rob Quist, of Creston; Bozeman attorney John Meyer; and state legislators Amanda Curtis, of Butte, Kelly McCarthy, of Billings, and Casey Schreiner, of Great Falls. There is no fee to run as a Democrat.
There are two Libertarian candidates interested, Rick Breckenridge, of Conner; and Mark Wicks, of Inverness.