After securing the Democratic nomination for U.S. House in Montana’s new western congressional district, Monica Tranel said the work is just beginning, with a general election campaign ahead.
“This will be a big, big challenge,” she said Tuesday night, during a celebration at Missoula’s Union Club. “We are up against corporate money, we are up against corruption, and our challenge is to deliver the Montana voice – our people in our community. We are going to draw from the strength of Montanans for the last 150 years who have stood up to corporate greed and served the people of Montana – and I will be that voice now.”
Tranel, an attorney from Missoula, was the clear first-place finisher in the Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District. This is the first time in more than 30 years that Montanans have voted in two separate House districts.
Cora Neumann, a nonprofit executive from Bozeman, finished second, followed by Tom Winter, a former state representative from Missoula.
After polls closed at 8 p.m., Tranel took a clear early lead and never relinquished it. A former staff attorney for the Montana Public Service Commission and Montana Consumer Counsel, she has campaigned on her Montana roots and her experience taking on companies like NorthWestern Energy in the courtroom.
Tranel credited her supporters.
“We have this night, to celebrate, to own and feel the joy of a victory that we all worked so hard for,” she said. “This isn't about me; this is about us. This is about Montana – the Montana we all love.”
Neumann held her election-night event at her mother’s home outside Bozeman. She conceded the race to Tranel around 10 p.m.
Neumann thanked those who voted for her and urged them to get behind Tranel in the upcoming general election.
“This is about all of us, our futures, our kids’ futures, and making sure that we leave them a Montana where they can grow and thrive,” she said. “Our work is far from over; let’s go win this race.”
Tranel, a two-time Olympic rower, has frequently alluded to that sport’s concept of an “engine room” – the athletes who provide the power to move the boat forward. On Tuesday, she said her supporters can fill that role.
“This is a hard moment that lies ahead, and I am not going into it alone – I’m going into it with you,” she said. “This is our engine room, this is our Montana, this is our home and we are all going to work for it and win this race together.”
While Tranel was the clear winner on the Democratic side, it’s not certain yet who her Republican opponent will be. Former U.S. Rep. and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was locked in a too-close-to-call race with orthopedic surgeon and former state Sen. Al Olszewski.
Libertarian John Lamb will also be on the general election ballot in the western congressional district.
Montanans are voted on Tuesday for the first time in more than 30 years in two different US Congressional districts.
The votes are still being counted but the Democratic winner for Montana's First Congressional District — which covers the western portion of the state — is Monica Tranel.
Cora Neumann has conceded the race.
Tranel is a Missoula lawyer who was the staff attorney for the Montana Public Service Commission and later for the Montana Consumer Counsel.
The third candidate was a former Montana State Representative from Missoula Tom Winter.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated with additional context and quotes.