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By Chris D’Angelo, Huff, HuffPost

Ryan Zinke’s post-government honeymoon with big oil was predictable to anyone who closely followed his tenure at Interior. And his deep ties to planet-warming fossil fuels have taken center stage in the race for Montana’s new House seat.

In 1976, a freshman jock and self-proclaimed “health nut” named Ryan Zinke ran for student body president on a pledge to bring a fruit stand to his rural high school in Whitefish, Montana. It proved to be a winning platform.

But in an interview shortly after his triumph, Zinke acknowledged that his motivation was not so much giving his classmates a healthy alternative to the school’s popular candy machine.

“Mainly it was a campaign move to get elected,” the 15-year-old, 6-foot-3 football, wrestling and swimming star told The Missoulian newspaper.

Zinke has been doing and saying what it takes to get ahead ever since.

The former Navy SEAL, state senator, congressman and Trump administration Cabinet member is once again on the campaign trail, this time running for Montana’s newly created House seat. The prohibitive front-runner, Zinke is among a group of former high-ranking Trump administration officials with a shot at entering elected office despite their roles in an unpopular, disastrous administration and their loyalty to a former president who went to great lengths to try to overturn a fair, legal election.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who served as White House press secretary for President Donald Trump, is the favorite for Arkansas’ next governor. Scott Pruitt, Trump’s scandal-plagued Environmental Protection Agency chief, is running for Senate in Oklahoma.

Zinke is pitching himself as a “patriot” who can “save America” — from what he calls President Joe Biden’s “disastrous” energy and economic policies; from government overreach and the “COVID industrial complex”; from the “swamp” of lobbyists and influence in Washington, D.C., that his former boss vowed repeatedly to “drain” only to flood with industry alligators.

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