Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., generally is vocal in support of GOP positions, but partisan disputes didn’t stop him from voting for the belated federal budget that finally became law last December. It wasn’t everything anybody wanted, but Zinke reasoned that it was better than another stopgap measure that would further underfund the U.S. military.

In his first term, Zinke has demonstrated that kind of pragmatism in getting things done for Montana.

In his 21 months as a U.S. representative, Zinke has voted generally in favor of public lands and public access despite his party’s platform supporting transfer of federal lands to states. (He resigned as a voting delegate to the GOP national convention in protest of the lands plank, but still gave a speech praising Donald Trump.)

Zinke joined with Montana U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines to support designating East Rosebud Creek a Wild and Scenic river, to protect that beautiful Beartooth Mountains waterway for area residents and visitors.

Zinke joined Tester in publicly endorsing the idea of putting public lands in Park County’s Paradise Valley permanently off limits to mining. A coalition of local businesses and residents are seeking legislation to preserve their way of life while two companies with foreign investors begin to pursue permits for possible gold mine development.

“I strongly support private property rights and responsible mineral development but Montana is the Last Best Place for a reason,” Zinke said earlier this year when asked about protecting Paradise Valley. “There are some places that are great to mine and other places that are just too precious.”

Zinke recognizes that the Affordable Care Act desperately needs work. We call on him to also recognize the good this federal law does in extending health coverage to many thousands of Montanans who otherwise would have no coverage. Rather than his “repeal and replace” mantra, Montana a needs an ACA fix that saves the beneficial parts and makes improvements to sustain a health care system that can serve all Americans while controlling costs.

Our biggest concern with Zinke is his loyalty to Donald Trump. He should publicly condemn Trump's attacks on women, U.S. war heroes and minorities.

But Zinke is not Trump, he is a Montanan, a U.S. veteran and a former state lawmaker. He has become a more polished speaker during his first U.S. House term. Montana needs a strong voice in the House, especially because we have only one representative. The House is likely to remain under GOP control in January, and then it will be even more helpful to have our lone representative in the majority party.

As Zinke told us: “You need a strong voice to make up for 55 voices from California.”

Democrat Denise Juneau has led successful efforts to help local schools boost statewide high school graduation rates. She improved the K-16 collaboration essential for preparing students to be ready for college and careers. She has in-depth understanding of education policy.

But on the campaign trail she has repeatedly seemed to be running for a state office, rather than for Congress. She just doesn’t seem as well-prepared as Zinke to make decisions on the array of issues the House must tackle.

Zinke certainly is the better informed candidate on foreign policy and national security issues. He has learned a lot in his first term. We are counting on him to keep learning and recommend that voters give Zinke a second term as Montana’s U.S. representative. Zinke also will need to help rebuild the Republican Party from the rubble of the divisive Trump campaign.

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