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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) TesterDemocrats break COVID-19 impasse with deal on jobless benefits The eight Democrats who voted 'no' on minimum wage COVID-19 relief debate stalls in Senate amid Democratic drama 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: Interior finalizes plan to open 80 percent of Alaska petroleum reserve to drilling | Justice Department lawyers acknowledge presidential transition in court filing | Trump admin pushes for permits for men who inspired Bundy standoff Trump administration pushes for grazing permits for men who inspired Bundy standoff Interior secretary tests positive for COVID-19 after two days of meetings with officials: 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.

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“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 WarrenSenate rejects Sanders minimum wage hike Philly city council calls on Biden to 'cancel all student loan debt' in first 100 days Hillicon Valley: High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday | Biden signals another reversal from Trump with national security guidance | Parler files a new case 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.