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GOP state Senators Buttrey and Sales in the race for Zinke seat - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

GOP state Senators Buttrey and Sales in the race for Zinke seat

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State Sen. Ed Buttrey, R-Great Falls State Sen. Ed Buttrey, R-Great Falls
Senate President-elect Scott Sales, R-Bozeman. Senate President-elect Scott Sales, R-Bozeman.

Two Republican state senators -- Ed Buttrey of Great Falls and Scott Sales of Bozeman -- announced Monday that they're running in next year's expected special election to succeed U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., next year.

Buttrey and Sales told MTN News that they'll vie for Zinke’s seat, which would become vacant if Zinke is confirmed as U.S. Interior secretary under incoming President Donald Trump.

"We will need strong leadership to continue the work that Ryan started," Buttrey said in a news release. "Once in Washington, D.C., I promise to work tirelessly to make sure that, as Montanans, we control how our state operates. We must advance legislation that will rid us of the federal policies and rules that force the one-size-fits-all mandates upon our citizens."

Trump announced last week that he will nominate Zinke to be Interior secretary – the first Montanan who would become a U.S. presidential cabinet member.

Once Zinke resigns his U.S. House seat, a special election will be held about three months later to fill the vacancy. The Republican, Democratic and Libertarian parties will nominate candidates for the race.  

Buttrey, 51, is halfway through his second term as a senator representing Senate District 13, which covers north and northwest Great Falls.

Sales, 56, represents a district that stretches from northwestern Gallatin County to Townsend and parts of Lewis and Clark County. He was just chosen by colleagues to be Senate president for the 2017 Legislature. 

Buttrey and Sales may not be the only Republicans to compete for the nomination, which will be determined by a vote of local Republican Party officials and delegates at a nominating convention.

Other possible candidates include Greg Gianforte, the Bozeman high-tech entrepreneur who challenged Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock this year, and Matt Rosendale, a state senator from Glendive who just won election as state auditor.

Gianforte said last week he’s been contacted by many people asking him to consider the nomination, but that he’s not decided anything. Rosendale could not immediately be reached for comment.

No Democrat has formally announced or said if he or she is running for the seat.

The date for the election has yet to be determined, but it’s likely to be in the late spring. Bullock must set the date within 85 to 100 days after the seat becomes vacant.

Buttrey has been a key figure within the party’s moderate bloc at the state Legislature the past three sessions, sponsoring the 2015 bill that expanded Medicaid coverage for 60,000 low-income Montanans.

Sales hails from the party's conservative wing, and has been a staunch advocate for less government and lower taxes. 

About Mike Dennison

MTN Chief Political Reporter Mike Dennison joined MTN News in August 2015 after a 23-year career as a newspaper reporter covering Montana politics and state government. While some may believe that politics are boring, Mike firmly believes that's not the case if you tell the story with pizzazz and let people know why the story is important.
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