Memo: Process for selecting nominee for open House seat

The following is a memo from the Montana Democratic Party recently shared with People’s Voice. IF we receive a similar memo from the Montana GOP, we will share it.

MEMO                                                                                                                                                                                      12/16/16

TO: Interested Parties

FROM: Nancy Keenan, Executive Director, Montana Democratic Party

SUBJECT: Possible vacancy in Montana’s U.S. House Seat


On December 13th 2016, news sources reported President-Elect Trump nominated Representative Ryan Zinke as his choice for Secretary of the Interior.  Rep. Zinke has reportedly accepted the nomination only 38 days after being elected as Montana’s lone congressman.  If Rep. Zinke’s nomination is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Rep. Zinke would vacate Montana’s House seat creating a situation in which a Special Election would be held.   This memo outlines the process of filling the vacated House seat upon confirmation of Representative Zinke as Secretary of the Interior.


Once the President-elect has forwarded his nomination for a cabinet position to the U.S. Senate, the individual nominated must complete disclosure forms and undergo a background check by the FBI. The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of Ryan Zinke and can vote to move the nomination to the floor of the Senate or not.  Once on the floor, a simple majority of the Senate is required to confirm the nominee.  Timing on the confirmation process is unpredictable as the Senate could start hearings on cabinet nominations as early as January 3, 2017 but no nominee can be confirmed until after the President is sworn in on January 20.

Once the House seat is vacated and the Governor receives official notice, he will set a date for a special election to be held no less than 85 days and no more than 100 days from the date he was notified.

Selection of Nominees

In the event a Special Election is called, each political party will hold a nominating convention to select their nominee for the open U.S. House seat.  The Democratic Party’s process for that convention is set forth in Rule 15 of the Montana Democratic Party’s Rules.  The State Chair shall call a Special Nominating Convention for the purpose of choosing a Democratic nominee.  Only members of the Montana Democratic Central Committee shall be entitled to vote in the nominating process. The person receiving a majority of votes shall be the party’s nominee.  Any Democrat can be nominated and run to be the party’s nominee for the special election.

Membership of the State Central Committee of the Montana Democratic Party is defined in Rule 4A of the Montana Democratic Party Rules.  The positions that make up the membership of the State Central Committee are listed below.

  • Voting members of the State Executive Board
    • State Party Chair
    • State Party Vice-Chair
    • State Party Treasurer
    • State Party Secretary
    • Montana’s Democratic National Committeeman
    • Montana’s Democratic National Committeewoman
    • A Western District Male County Chair
    • A Western District Female County Chair
    • An Eastern District Male County Chair
    • An Eastern District Female County Chair
    • Two Western District Male Party Members
    • Two Western District Female Party Members
    • Two Eastern District Male Party Members
    • Two Western District Female Party Members
    • The State House of Representative Minority Leader
    • The State Senate Minority Leader
    • The State House of Representatives Democratic Whips
    • The State Senate Democratic Whips
    • The Governor of Montana
    • The Democratic Senator from Montana
  • The Chair of each active County Central Committee
  • The Vice-Chair of each active County Central Committee
  • The State Committeeman from each active County Central Committee
  • The State Committeewoman from each active County Central Committee
  • The President of any recognized Partnered Organizations
  • Any Democrats holding the positions of Lt. Governor, Clerk of the Supreme Court, or members of the PSC.

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