A Republican candidate for U.S. Senate denounced the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks as “deep state” for investigating his alleged hunting violations.
Troy Downing, who’s seeking the GOP nomination, issued a statement Wednesday accusing the department of conducting a “witch hunt” against him, reported the Independent Record.
“It’s unfortunate the liberal Montana FWP deep state is on a witch hunt,” the Downing campaign said.
The statement came in response to a report this week by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, which revealed Downing was charged with seven misdemeanor violations for buying or applying for resident hunting licenses as a non-resident and cited an eighth time for a similar violation.
Authorities say Downing, whose income tax returns identify him as a non-resident, illegally purchased licenses every year between 2011 and 2016.
An application for a search warrant cites several posts on Downing’s personal blog, “Troy’s World-Random Rants and Related Run-On Retarded Rhetoric,” that suggest his time spent in Montana was “seasonal at best” while living most of the time in California.
Downing, who hopes to unseat Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), is due back in court Nov. 15.
He also blasted Gallatin County District Court Judge John Brown, who unsealed the records last month, as a “Democrat,” although judicial positions are non-partisan.
“This is nothing more than an orchestrated attack on a combat veteran by Senator Tester’s allies who are desperate to stay in power,” Downing’s campaign said. “These moves are obviously politically motivated and makes a mockery of the judicial process.”
The campaign said Downing’s Air Force service, which ended with an honorable discharge in 2009, and businesses in 35 states kept him out of Montana for much of the year.
Non-residents must pay a higher licensing fee to hunt in Montana.
Downing’s campaign used language popularized on the campaign trail by President Donald Trump, and the GOP candidate posed for a photo with Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump when they visited Montana.
But he criticized Trump the candidate as “either a liar or an idiot” on his since-deleted Twitter account, and he said the GOP nominee was unelectable.
Lola Zinke, wife of Trump’s Interior Secretary and former U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, is Downing’s campaign chairwoman.