Ryan Zinke considers himself a snake wrangler.
The former Trump-era interior secretary, and current GOP candidate for Montana’s new US House seat, is campaigning on a promise to take on the proverbial “swamp” of bureaucrats and called “deep states” in Washington. , DC — a platform that seems to implicitly acknowledge the Trump administration’s failure to get the job done.
“When you drain the swamp, it exposes the snakes. And they attack!” Zinke said in a campaign style video published in May. “As Secretary of the Interior, I got an extra dose of fake news and false charges. And now, running for Congress, it’s happening again.”
Zinke’s critics, including his Democratic opponent, Monica Tranel, see him as a creature of that same quagmire: someone who was plagued by scandal and ethical lapses, and who ultimately charged with powerful special interests after leaving his government position.
On Thursday, Tranel released its third snake-themed campaign ad, titled “Snake on a Plane.” The announcement summarizes the findings of several Interior Department investigations into Zinke’s conduct, including his use of private aircraft.
“I’ve spent my career dealing with snakes like Ryan Zinke,” Tranel says in the ad, standing on an airstrip and holding a snake on a shovel. “In Congress, I will stand up to anyone who tries to rip off Montana.”
Zinke, Tranel and Libertarian John Lamb are vying for Montana’s newly created House seat, which covers the western part of the state.
If elected, Zinke has said his first piece of legislation would be the so-called Federal Employee Reduction and Accountability Act, or FEAR Act, which would aim to strip federal agencies of public servants and put time limits on that a person can hold a federal office. work The 10-point legislative framework is the culmination of years of his own self-victimization.
In an email to a Montana resident a few months after being sworn in as Trump’s interior chief, Zinke protested the pace of his staff and declared that “the resistance movement is alive and well.”
“Draining the swamp is a complete tome [sic] work,” he wrote. “We will win.”
Tranel, a two-time Olympic rower and environmental lawyer, has a penchant for snake-themed attacks.
Another announcement before the June primary summarized the findings of a February report of the Interior watchdog, which concluded that Zinke violated ethics rules and misused his office with his continued involvement in a real estate project in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana, and that he lied to investigators about it.
Tranel appears in the ad, carrying a motionless snake on a shovel. “Growing up on a ranch in Montana, I learned how to deal with snakes,” he says. “And we have a poisonous one in Ryan Zinke.”
But surely Tranel wouldn’t have killed a snake just to make an opinion about Zinke.
Sam Sterling, Tranel’s campaign manager, clarified that no snakes were harmed in the making of the ad. He told HuffPost that the campaign rented the reptile at a “children’s birthday party location” and that the animal cooperated for the shoot by sitting still on the shovel.
Most recently, Zinke took to Twitter before last week’s televised candidate debate to post this image:
The photo is of a unofficial secretarial portraitfirst introduced in 2020, which is nothing more than Zinke’s face pasted into a painting by fantasy artist Frank Frazetta”Death Dealer 6.” It depicts Zinke riding a horse through flames, wielding an ax and fighting a massive snake, no doubt a reference to the Trump administration’s rhetoric about “draining the swamp.”
Zinke’s site provided more fodder for Tranel’s camp.
“Ryan Zinke said, ‘When you drain the swamp, it exposes the snakes.'” He even drew that portrait, Tranel said in another snake-centric ad released this week. “Are you taking my hair? Ryan Zinke is the biggest snake of all.”