BILLINGS – Republican Ryan Zinke announced his candidacy for the U.S. House in Billings on Monday.
A former state legislator and career Navy SEAL, Zinke told supporters that an overreaching federal government has thrown the nation into crisis.
He singled out the Internal Revenue Service’s scrutinizing of political groups as well as National Security Agency surveillance of U.S. citizens as examples of government gone too far. Gun control was another big concern.
“Our biggest crisis is we have a crisis of trust,” Zinke said. “I can tell you as a SEAL commander of 23 years, I’ve seen what happens when people no longer have faith in the government. It is the Middle East. It is Africa. Never in my lifetime did I think that our country would be compared to a Third World nation.“
Zinke said Congress should be focused on private-sector job creation with heavy doses of expanding domestic oil production. The candidate said the United States should achieve energy independence in five years.
Reflecting on the 16-day government shutdown, Zinke said lawmakers should focus on a long-term budget.
“I think the issue became a little convoluted when ‘Obamacare’ came in the discussion because it drew away from the core about what are you doing about the debt?” Zinke said. “Raising the debt ceiling was about the debt. So what’s the plan? We should have forced the president, say, ‘I’ll turn the lights off when you give me a plan.’ And the lights should be off right now unless a plan is forthcoming.”
Zinke lives in Whitefish, but chose to announce his campaign in Billings, where he emphasized his family ties to eastern Montana. He called Billings the state’s economic driver. Visiting with supporters after his announcement, Zinke said he would be moving to the Magic City in January.
One eighth of the Montana vote is in Yellowstone County, which has been crucial in statewide elections, particularly Republican primaries.
Five Republicans have indicated they will run for Montana’s lone U.S. House seat currently occupied by GOP Rep. Steve Daines. Though Daines hasn’t announced whether he will seek re-election, it’s expected he will attempt to replace Democrat Max Baucus in the Senate. Baucus isn’t seeking re-election after more than three decades in office.
Two of the five Republicans eyeing the House have ties to Billings or eastern Montana. Corey Stapleton lives in Billings, represented the community in the state Legislature and finished second in the multi-candidate Republican primary for governor in 2012. Matt Rosendale, a current state senator, lives in Glendive.
In 2012, Zinke was the lieutenant governor candidate on Neil Livingstone’s bid for governor. Livingstone finished fifth in the Republican primary.