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

Interior secretary’s wife tapped to lead GOP challenge to Montana senator
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Troy Downing, a Montana businessman seeking to challenge Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterFive things to know about Sanders’s single-payer plan Where Dems stand on Sanders's single-payer bill Overnight Regulation: DeVos ignites backlash with rewrite of campus sexual assault policy l EPA power plant rule decision likely this fall | Panel approves Trump financial regulator nominees MORE (D-Mont.) next year, has chosen Lola Zinke to be his new campaign manager.

Zinke, the wife of Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeInterior Dept recommends reducing Bears Ears, other protected land: report Give tribes real authority in Bears Ears National Monument Trump moving toward energy exploration in Arctic wildlife refuge: report 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.

“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 WarrenSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Trump bets base will stick with him on immigration Dems call for action against Cassidy-Graham ObamaCare repeal 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.