Juneau may challenge Zinke for House seat
Last updated 10/22/2015 at 6:35pm
HELENA — Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau is considering challenging U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke for Montana's U.S. House seat next year, a spokeswoman for the Democrat said Wednesday.
Juneau, 48, has been the state's public schools superintendent since 2009 and is the first female Native American elected to statewide office in Montana.
"Denise is seriously considering a run for office because she sees an opportunity to bring a Montana work ethic and her record of getting things done to the U.S. House," spokeswoman Emilie Ritter Saunders said.
But it is a big decision for Juneau and she has set no deadlines for making it, Saunders added.
Zinke, 53, is a first-term Republican from Whitefish who was elected in 2014 over former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus aide John Lewis.
Last week, Zinke said he was considering a long-shot bid for U.S. House speaker, but on Wednesday said he would back Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., for the job.
If she decides to run, Juneau would be the first person to challenge Zinke in the 2016 election.
"The congressman welcomes her in the race and he's looking forward to discussing the issues that are most important to Montana families," Zinke spokeswoman Heather Swift said.
Zinke has hired two professional fundraising firms to help him shore up campaign cash for next year's elections. As of Sept. 30, his campaign had more than $747,000 in the bank.
Juneau grew up in Browning and is a member of the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes. She has taught or been an administrator for public schools and higher education for most of her career, according to her website.
Term limits prevent Juneau from running for superintendent in 2016. Republican state Sen. Elsie Arntzen and Democrat Melissa Romano-Lehman are competing for the open seat.
The U.S. House race is Montana's top federal election in 2016, along with the presidential election.