Originally published in the Yellowstone County News print edition and on newsstands today 2/23/17.
BILLINGS — Ed Walker, 46, of Billings, a former Montana state legislator, is throwing his hat in the ring for the election to fill the U.S. House of Representatives seat which will be vacated with the resignation of Republican Ryan Zinke, if and when he is confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Secretary of the Interior.
Walker, who was elected to the state Senate in 2010 in Senate District 29, said that he recently toured the state and visited with Republican delegates who will potentially select their party’s candidate. Those conversations leave him confident that he can win the seat, he said.
“They are looking for someone who believes in the core principles of all Montanans. . . someone who is genuine. . . and for someone who can win,” he said. Walker believes that he has the record of a winner and has the experience to raise the funding necessary to run a successful campaign.
He is also very confident he holds the core values that all of the delegates said they wanted to see in a candidate. There are differences in issues the delegates are concerned about, from one part of the state to another, said Walker, but fundamentally they share the same values.
With his announcement, Walker joins a growing list of about six Republicans who have announced their candidacy, and a few who have only indicated an interest in doing so. The Republican list of candidates is only slightly longer than the Democrat’s list of four. Added to that will be at least one Libertarian candidate, if not more.
President Donald Trump named Zinke as his pick for the Department of the Interior, but the confirmation process has been stalled by Democrats, far beyond expectations. At latest report, with Congress taking a recess, Zinke’s confirmation is expected to be taken up no sooner than the end of February or even possibly to mid March, at which time Zinke is expected to resign his seat in the House of Representatives.
Once Zinke has resigned, each political party in Montana will select a candidate for a run off.
“The message that a candidate needs to make in order to win the election, is one of limited government and a belief in individual freedom,” said Walker, who has held to such principles since his youth, growing up in Colstrip, in a family that was very supportive of President Ronald Reagan. Walker attributes his lifelong interest in politics to his family, who often discussed political events and issues.
“I believe in individual freedom, freedom of speech and of religion, and the right to bear arms. These are fundamental constitutional freedoms everyone believes in,” said Walker, adding that he believes “the states should be free to decide their own destiny, rather than the federal government, in how to manage our land.”
As someone with a degree in economics and who is also an entrepreneur and business owner, Walker is an advocate of free markets. He says he understands the debilitating effects of over-reaching regulations and high taxes on business and economic growth.
Walker is shareholder of Triple L Inc., a company that serves the mid-stream oil industry, building infrastructure. At its peak, during the oil boom, Triple L employed 75 people. It currently employs 35.
Prior to owning his own business, Walker spent years following college, as a business and systems consultant with major companies across the country, living at different times in places like Chicago, Birmingham, Alabama, and Denver. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Montana State University and a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Denver.
A native of Montana, Walker was born in Butte and raised in Anaconda and Colstrip, has always considered Montana his home, even when he couldn’t be here. Having to leave the state in 1996 was very hard to do, he said, and it was with the strategy of being able to return to his “spiritual home” that he called the late U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns during his 2006 campaign and asked if there was anything he could do.
Walker became Burns’ political director, putting together “a massive get-out-the –vote effort, which created a base of conservative activists that still serves as a political organization that has helped win in the state Legislature.”
Walker credits that underlying organization for the Republican sweep of state land board offices during the most recent general election.
Walker and his wife, Kathleen, have five children, in addition to an “adopted” niece and a nephew, who joined their family after the untimely death of Walker’s sister.
Walker has taken a leave of absence from his company to dedicate 100% of his time to winning the nomination. He also launched his website www.walker4montana.com this week in preparation for his run to replace Rep. Zinke.
Exactly when the political parties in Montana will choose their candidates remains uncertain since they will not select their candidates until the Congressional seat is officially vacated. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock must call for a special election to be held between 85 and 100 days from the date of Zinke’s resignation. Montana has never before had to hold a special election to fill a Congressional seat between terms.