Helena farmer joins Republican race for U.S. House seat

(KPAX) Another Republican has joined the 2020 race for Montana’s open U.S. House seat — making it now three men competing for the GOP nomination next year.

Helena farmer and rancher Joe Dooling kicked off his campaign Wednesday morning, with a brief speech and news conference in front of his tractor and farm in the Helena Valley.

Dooling said he offers GOP voters someone who has a strong background in agriculture — and somebody who won’t abandon the seat once he gains it.

The last two Montana congressmen — Ryan Zinke and Greg Gianforte — decided to leave the seat within two years of winning it.

Zinke became President Trump’s Interior secretary and Gianforte is running for governor in 2020.

Dooling is a longtime Republican Party activist, who chairs the Lewis and Clark County Republican Central Committee — and ran for the Legislature in 2008.

He’s taking on Republican state Auditor Matt Rosendale and Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, in the GOP primary next year.

Dooling acknowledged that he’s not well-known to voters — but says it won’t be the first time he’s overcome long odds.

“I’m definitely the underdog here and I think…all my life people have told me that I was an underdog. When I came to the Helena Valley I was a hired hand and now I have a farm,” Dooling said.

“Everybody said, ‘you can’t buy a farm in today’s age, you can’t buy a farm in the Helena Valley.’ And I’ve clawed and digged my way up every time. So being an underdog is great, because you only have one place to go, is up,” he added.

Two Democrats are in the race for the House seat — Kathleen Williams of Bozeman and Tom Winter of Missoula.