Interior secretary’s wife tapped to lead GOP challenge to Montana senator

Interior secretary’s wife tapped to lead GOP challenge to Montana senator
© Getty Images

Troy Downing, a Montana businessman seeking to challenge Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterOvernight Defense: Trump orders Pentagon to help house immigrant families | Mattis says 'space force' needs legislation | VA pick gets hearing date Election Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral Senate panel schedules hearing on Trump VA pick MORE (D-Mont.) next year, has chosen Lola Zinke to be his new campaign manager.

Zinke, the wife of Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Senate panel sets Pruitt hearing | Colorado joins California with tougher emissions rules | Court sides with Trump on coal leasing program Interior 'disappointed' by billboards protesting uranium drilling in Grand Canyon Court rejects greens’ climate case against federal coal mining MORE, worked on President Trump’s campaign last year and was a member of the transition team for the Veterans Affairs Department after the election.

“This isn’t title only, I’m going to be hands-on in this campaign because it’s vital for Montana and America that we elect Troy,” Lola Zinke said in a statement.

ADVERTISEMENT
“I first met Troy on a fishing trip and his kindness, intelligence, youthful enthusiasm, business experience and amazing military history made me think that one day he must serve his state and country again. And right now is the perfect time,” she added.

Downing, a businessman and commercial real estate professional, is one of four candidates seeking to oppose Tester next year.

Ryan Zinke himself was once considered a leading Republican challenger to Tester, but Trump picked the former congressman to head his Interior Department instead.

Lola Zinke was a member of Trump’s Hispanic and women’s outreach efforts last year.

She wrote a Breitbart News op-ed last October saying she supported Trump because of his support for the military and because “I believe Trump’s business acumen will help build a stronger economy and he will surround himself with incredibly smart and successful individuals rather than career bureaucrats.” 

Downing said in a statement that “Lola brings our campaign to an entirely new level.”

"Her dynamic presence is a major addition to our team as we give the citizens of Montana a clear conservative voice focused on Montana values, not Washington D.C.’s [Sen.] Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenFederal court rules consumer bureau structure unconstitutional Election Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — GOP lawmakers race to find an immigration fix MORE (D-Mass.) values,” he added.

Lola Zinke's decision to back Downing also gives him a major leg up in his crowded GOP primary.

Her support could give Downing a boost among the Interior secretary's network of supporters and donors.

State Auditor Matt Rosendale, state Sen. Albert Olszewski and former state Rep. Russell Fagg are among the candidates fighting for the chance to take on Tester.

Ben Kamisar contributed to this report, which was updated at 12:07 p.m.