HELENA, Mont. — The wife of U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is backing a political newcomer for the U.S. Senate seat that Montana Republicans had hoped Zinke would run for himself.

Troy Downing said Wednesday that Lolita Zinke will be his campaign chairwoman, assisting Downing and his campaign staff.

Downing is making his first run for office in a crowded field of Republican contenders to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in 2018.

Ryan Zinke is a former congressman who was the Montana GOP’s top choice to take on Tester until President Donald Trump picked him for the cabinet post.

Both Zinke and Downing are military veterans with residences in Montana and California.

Lolita Zinke said in a statement released by the Downing campaign that she believes this is the perfect time for Downing to serve his state and country again.