Republican Greg Gianforte wins Montana special election, CNN projects

Pauline Gross
June 1, 2017

Gianforte urged Montana voters to send him to help Trump "drain the swamp", brought in Vice President Mike Pence and first son Donald Trump campaign for him and was supported by millions of dollars of ads and mailers paid for by Republican groups.

And the president, in Italy for a G-7 summit, said to journalists after Gianforte's victory: "Great win in Montana".

Republican Greg Gianforte apologized on Thursday for assaulting a reporter after winning the Montana race.

Gianforte prevailed despite being charged on Wednesday night with misdemeanor assault on Ben Jacobs, a political correspondent for the USA edition of the Guardian newspaper, who said the candidate "body-slammed" him during a campaign event in Bozeman. A technology entrepreneur who was widely regarded among even Republican strategists as an imperfect candidate, Gianforte could be heard on an audio tape yelling at the reporter, Ben Jacobs of The Guardian.

"When you make a mistake, you have to own up to it", Gianforte said. "That's the Montana way". "And I took an action that I can't take back", he said.

"I should not have responded the way I did, and for that I'm sorry", Gianforte said.

"I'm going to let the people of Montana decide who they want as their representative", the Speaker told reporters.

As is often the case with special elections, the statewide Montana race (Montana, with fewer registered voters than Palm Beach County, has only one at-large U.S. House district) was viewed by many as an early referendum on Trump's presidency. In November, Trump won the state by 20 points and a Democrat hasn't won the congressional seat for two decades.

The state's Democratic governor, Steve Bullock, described the incident as "a wake-up call to all Montanans and Americans".

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The race ultimately turned on the weaknesses of both Gianforte and his opponent, folk singer and Democrat Rob Quist, making it tough to use as a barometer for the nation's political mood.

Gianforte had aligned himself with Trump.

The special election was made possible when former Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke took a spot in the President Trump administration.

"The only thing in Gianforte's statement that is factually correct is my name and my place of employment", Ben Jacobs said on ABC's "Good Morning America".

By midnight Wednesday, the Gallatin County Sheriff's office had charged Gianforte with misdemeanor assault.

Gianforte campaigned as a gun-loving Montanan endorsed by the National Rifle Association to build his credibility among hunting enthusiasts and to motivate gun rights activists to vote.

That Georgia seat - in the rapidly changing suburbs that largely rejected Trump despite being historically Republican - is more of the type of seat Democrats will need to flip in order to win back the House in 2018. But speaking at his victory party in Bozeman shortly after the race was called, Gianforte admitted he was in the wrong and offered an apology to Jacobs. "Montanans said Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi can't call the shots".

Quist blamed a botched gallbladder strategy when confronted with a series of attacks that he had unpaid property taxes and debts.

Almost 70 percent of votes in Montana were cast early - before the alleged assault took place. "I was disappointed to see he flew off the handle like that", she said.

Other reports by GizPress

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