The GOP held on to their House seat in Montana Thursday, electing Republican Greg Gianforte in the special election, despite the fact he was charged with assaulting a reporter Wednesday.
Gianforte ran for the congressional seat to replace Ryan Zinke, who was chosen by President Trump to serve as Department of Interior secretary. Vice President Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr. had come to the state to campaign for him in the special election.
Fox News reported that, out of 270,000 ballots cast, Gianforte was already ahead of Democrat Rob Quist by more than 24,000 votes, with 84 percent of precincts already reporting.
A confrontation with Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs Wednesday threatened to throw Gianforte’s campaign in jeopardy, when Gianforte reportedly told Jacobs to “Get the hell out of here!” as he grabbed Jacobs by the neck and threw him to the ground.
The local sheriff then filed a misdemeanor assault charge against him – a charge that carries a maximum $500 fine or up to six months in prison.
In his victory speech late Thursday night, Gianforte apologized for his action.
“When you make a mistake, you have to own up to it. That’s the Montana way. Last night I made a mistake, and I took an action that I can’t take back, and I’m not proud of what happened. I should not have responded in the way that I did, and for that I’m sorry. I should not have treated that reporter that way, and for that I am sorry Mr. Ben Jacobs.”
At least one-third of eligible voters had already cast their ballots in early voting when the incident occurred, and others interviewed said it didn’t impact the way they planned to vote.
One voter interviewed Thursday, Shaun Scott, said, “If you have somebody sticking a phone in your face, a mic in your face, over and over, and you don’t know how to deal with the situation, you haven’t really done that, you haven’t dealt with that, I can see where it can … make you a little angry.”
The media was filled with news of the altercation Thursday, and three major Montana newspapers pulled their endorsement of Gianforte, but Republicans in Montana stood behind him and gave him a definite victory in the race.
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