After several days of hand counting ballots in Lincoln County, Ryan Zinke finally emerged as the winner late Thursday night in the state’s first western district Congressional primary campaign in over 30 years.

KGVO spoke to Zinke early Friday morning about the tight race with fellow Republican Al ‘Doc’ Olszewski.

“It was pretty brutal as far as a negative campaign goes,” began Zinke. “You know there's a sense of frustration, uncertainty and doubt out there and I would say it's absolutely right to be concerned for our country, and I'm concerned too, but it's fixable. Now, voter turnout was a little low and we also have a Republican party that's pretty enthusiastic. We see the country falling apart in chunks and we want to take action.”

Zinke was in Libby in Lincoln County (where wrong size ballots forced a laborious hand count) and remarked about how sky high diesel prices are keeping loggers out of the woods.

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“You know, with gas prices as they are, a lot of people aren't taking the logs out of the woods because diesel is approaching six bucks,” he said. “Yeah, looking at energy costs, we need to drive down inflation. There are a lot of things that we should be doing in this country. We need to remove the anger and focus on the mission.”

Zinke emphasized the cost of gas and diesel and how inflation is crippling the small towns in Montana.

“The supply chain is messed up,” he said. “We’re at the end of the supply chain here so, goods are more expensive by time they get to Montana. Distances are longer generally and people have to commute longer distances. “Look at building materials and look at the cost of fuel of to deliver food to grocery stores. It's really hard on Montana families, because they don't make a whole lot anyway.”

Zinke, like Matt Rosendale, said it’s vital for a Republican to win the new western district Congressional seat for more importantly, for Republicans to really work together in Congress.

“If we're divided in the Republican Party, then this war is already lost,” he said. “We have to unify the party and I would suggest the pillars of that unification should rest upon limited government and self determination, because the government should not decide what you should become. People are also after free speech, the right to assemble, and every aspect of the American Constitution that is our fundamental foundation of our way of life as Americans, and I think it's worth defending.”

Zinke now has to concentrate on his Democratic opponent in the general election, Monica Tranel.

“It is going to be very difficult for an environmental lawyer from Missoula to get any headway,” he said. “I can tell you up in beautiful Libby where they live in a sea of trees and can't harvest one of them, it has decimated a lot of great families up in Libby. In the northwest the environmentalists put up a fight every time you want to harvest and every time we want to use our resources. I think it's going to be a tough road for her.”

The general election will be Tuesday, November 8.

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