By Jim Ellis
May 26, 2017 — Bozeman, Montana businessman and former gubernatorial nominee Greg Gianforte (R) shrugged off a 24-hour media pounding last evening. The congressional candidate, besieged with attacks over his election eve physical altercation with a Guardian-US publication reporter, rebounded to defeat country folk singer Rob Quist, 50-44 percent, in the state’s at-large special congressional election.
The victory margin translates into a 24,027-vote edge, from a voting universe of just under 375,000 people with one county still to report, who either came to the polls or mailed a pre-election day absentee ballot. The turnout is a special election record, and actually exceeds the number who voted in the state’s most recent mid-term (2014). The numbers are unusually high because the Montana at-large seat is the largest congressional district in the country, housing over one million residents.
The special congressional vote was made necessary when former at-large Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) was appointed US Interior Secretary. The major political parties nominated their candidates in convention, a process that produced Gianforte for the Republicans, which had been expected since he had run a close gubernatorial bid in November, and Quist for the Democrats.
In the end, the final result was not as close as several final pre-election media stories predicted. There were several pieces, even in conservative publications, that left the door wide open for a Quist upset finish, and the writers were already beginning to spin how this Montana election result would reflect poorly on President Trump.