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What’s best for Montana when it comes to the state’s lone representative in The People’s House? A second-term Republican with a distinguished military career and a close affiliation with the Trump wing of the party? Or a dynamic Democrat, the first Native American woman in Congress?

The contrast couldn’t be more stark.

Given what we’ve seen of the chaotic and divisive Trump campaign, we believe Denise Juneau is the best choice.

We take exception to Rep. Ryan Zinke’s verbal shrug about Donald Trump’s offensive remarks about women, saying the presidential candidate “has been an equal opportunity offender. I don’t think he offends women any more than he offends anyone else.” I believe many of Zinke’s constituents would tell him otherwise.

Zinke did say he thought Trump’s language was “shocking and wrong” and said he and his wife “have talked about it and we pray he has grown from his mistake.” We have seen no sign of such a conversion.

We do appreciate Rep. Zinke’s efforts on behalf of veterans, although Congress’ scorched-earth politics has prevented significant progress on even those vital issues.

Zinke volunteered himself earlier in the Trump campaign as a vice-presidential prospect – just as he suggested during his freshman term that he’d be a great pick as Speaker of the House, earning some raised eyebrows even within his own caucus. We believe that in Congress, Juneau would be more interested in policy than such fanciful flights of self-promotion.

Her two terms as Superintendent of Public Instruction have been marked by serious engagement and real work. Her trademark Graduation Matters initiative has allowed local districts to design their own graduation initiatives, with encouraging results over the past seven years.

In recent days, Zinke has resorted to one of the signal myths in the Republican lexicon, echoing Trump on the racial dog-whistle threat of voter fraud. Zinke says he believes “a lot of voter fraud” took place in Montana in the last senatorial election. We have many problems worth the attention of our Congressman in this state, but voter fraud has never been identified as one of them.

While it is unsurprising that Zinke has refused to back off on his support of Trump, since the bombastic businessman is evidently retaining a lead in Montana, it is discouraging to see him parroting a line that has been widely discredited.

Juneau is aiming for a place in history. She is trying to become the first woman Congressman from Montana since Jeannette Rankin, and the first Native American woman ever to claim a seat in the U.S. Capitol. Usually, as a freshman congressman, very probably with the minority party, she would be utterly invisible. But her pioneer status would give Juneau far more visibility than most.

We believe she has earned that chance, and that she would make Montanans proud with her service.

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