Now, the developers appear to be selling the 14 acres at 95 Karrow Ave., and are touting the potential brewery and the parking lot as features of the property. In January, the site was listed for $10 million. The land remains undeveloped — a plot of overgrown weeds, potholes and gravel. But the listing advertises the space as a “developer’s dream,” and incorporates recently approved plans for a multiuse development, including a 4,240 sq. ft. microbrewery and the use of 137 parking spots on the adjacent Great Northern Veterans Peace Park. Online records show a sale of 95 Karrow is currently pending.
It’s not clear who the buyer is or who will manage the brewery, if constructed, but the development could raise the value of neighboring properties the Zinkes own. And while the nonprofit that has offered its space for parking is led by Lolita — Zinke stepped down from running it prior to becoming Interior Secretary — he appears to continue to support its efforts: He donated $11,594 in leftover campaign funds to the nonprofit in December 2020, according to FEC filings.
Malmquist, the developer, told me the Zinkes are not involved in the brewery or financially tied to the broader development. He described the project’s use of the veterans park as a “shared parking agreement” that was established in late 2017 and said the developers would cover the costs of converting the land into parking. He said he has only interacted with Lolita over the parking issue. Asked about the meeting he had with Zinke in his Interior Department office and a subsequent private tour Zinke gave him and Lesar of the Lincoln Memorial, Malmquist characterized the interactions as a D.C. welcome for fellow Montanans and said he had not discussed the 95 Karrow development with Zinke on the trip.
The Zinke campaign did not respond to questions about the deal. Lesar could not be reached for comment. The real estate agent for 95 Karrow did not respond to requests for comment.
Some Montanans I spoke with argue Zinke has become part of Washington’s great revolving door, more invested in getting back to D.C. and back to the relationships it has offered him than he is in serving the state. But Zinke’s supporters say his business dealings and history in Washington won’t detract from his campaign. “I think the general impression was that Trump was hounded from day one, and everybody appointed was hounded from day one, so I don’t think it will have any impact to Zinke’s race,” said the former Republican Montana elected official who asked not to be named. “None of those charges stuck, to my knowledge.”
“If you didn’t know anything about Montana and Montana voters, all you need to do is remember that Greg Gianforte” — then a House candidate, now governor — “body-slammed a reporter a few days before his [congressional] election and probably picked up 5 points,” added Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), the first member of Congress to endorse Zinke in the current campaign. “So, there’s that Western independent cowboy spirit.”
A sense of uncertainty surrounds the race for Montana’s 2nd district for reasons beyond Zinke’s residency or business dealings. For one thing, the district’s lines won’t officially be drawn until early next year — and there’s a possibility Zinke could end up in the uncomfortable position of running against Montana’s current congressman, Republican Matt Rosendale, who lives in the eastern part of the state.
The GOP favors keeping the East-West divide that existed the last time Montana had two House representatives, in the 1990s, which Republicans say better reflects local identity. That configuration would likely give Montana two GOP victories, and in turn could give national Republicans another seat in the House. But Democrats in Montana are pushing to carve out Flathead County, home to Whitefish and the deep-red city of Kalispell, to make it part of the Eastern district. That would push Zinke into Rosendale’s district and give the Democratic candidates — Cora Neumann, state Rep. Laurie Bishop and lawyer Monica Tranel — a better shot at winning the Western district.
Bob Brown, a Whitefish-based former Republican president of the Montana Senate who helped Zinke get his start in state politics, says Zinke is a “pretty strong frontrunner” for the new 2nd district if it includes Flathead County. But, Brown pointed out, “Zinke barely beat Rosendale in his first congressional primary.” Swift, Zinke’s campaign consultant, said Zinke plans to run in the district where he lives and doesn’t plan to primary Rosendale.
There is not good polling yet for the race, but Zinke is facing competition on both the left and the right. His Democratic opponents are hoping the state can embrace its more purple past. Montana had a Democratic governor until recently and still has one Democratic U.S. senator, plus it has one of the highest rates of ticket-splitting of any state. Neumann recently reported raising $469,000 in the third quarter of the year; Tranel reported $244,000; and Bishop reported $117,000.