BOZEMAN — In the race for Montana’s western congressional district, Republican candidate Ryan Zinke and Democratic candidate Monica Tranel have repeatedly exchanged sharp criticisms, and that didn’t change during MTN’s U.S. House debate in Bozeman Saturday night.
In the hourlong debate, the two candidates attacked each other’s records, defended their positions on issues from inflation to immigration – and, frequently, accused their opponents of misleading voters.
“Once again, you lie about my position,” Zinke said.
“Everything you’ve said is completely unsourced, and nothing that ever came out of my mouth,” said Tranel.
In one heated exchange, Zinke and Tranel argued over abortion policy.
“This is not about privacy, it’s about abortion,” Zinke said. “Your position to accept an abortion a moment before birth and hide under privacy is barbaric.”
“What’s barbaric is for you to take this moment of incredible heartbreak at the end of a pregnancy – parents who choose that do in very extreme, heartbreaking circumstances – for you to use that as a political pawn to justify taking away our privacy and our freedom to make choices about when we become a parent, that’s barbaric,” Tranel responded.
Zinke said he was pro-life but opposed a full abortion ban and acknowledged “dire circumstances” like rape and incest. Tranel said the next representative would need to take a clear stance for or against federal abortion restrictions, and she was fully opposed.
Zinke, who oversaw oil and gas leasing as U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and Tranel, an attorney who’s worked with renewable energy producers and challenged utilities, also split on the role of alternative energy. Zinke said he’s not opposed to new sources of energy, but that oil and gas still need to be a big part of the country’s supply.
“You can’t dispute the fact that American energy made here is better under our regulations, and cleaner, than produced overseas,” he said. “The Keystone is a critical part of infrastructure, we need hydrocarbons to make sure the grid is stable.”
Tranel said western Montana – including rural counties – are well positioned to take advantage of a transition to new energy sources.
“True energy independence allows us to cook our food, heat our home, run our machines when the grid goes down, so let’s modernize the grid,” she said. “Let’s embrace this moment and make it work for Montana.”
Full video of the debate is available at the top of the page. A replay of the event will also be available on MTN stations' streaming apps.