If U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke becomes Interior secretary under incoming President Donald Trump, a special election would be held in Montana to choose Zinke’s successor — but it’s not clear who, if anyone, would hold the post until the election occurs. State law says the governor “may” appoint someone to hold the seat until the election. But Montana Republican Party Chairman Jeff Essmann told MTN News that the U.S. Constitution may conflict with that law, because the Constitution essentially says U.S. House vacancies must be filled by election. Montana State University political scientist Dave Parker also said Tuesday that in other states, to his knowledge, when a House seat becomes vacant, it stays unfilled until a special election chooses the new member.
A spokeswoman for the Montana secretary of state, who is the state’s chief election officer, said Tuesday evening the office is researching what will occur should Zinke leave office early next year.
National news organizations reported Tuesday that President-elect Trump has tabbed Zinke to become his secretary of the Interior. Although Zinke wasn’t available for comment, sources told MTN News that Zinke will accept the job.
Zinke must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate for the Interior post. Once that happens and he vacates his U.S. House seat, Gov. Steve Bullock would order a special election to fill Zinke’s post, 85 to 100 days later.