Republican Greg Gianforte won the special election for Montana’s lone congressional seat on Thursday despite an election eve misdemeanor assault charge for allegedly body-slamming a reporter.
Gianforte had been silent in the wake of the allegations, with his campaign only releasing a statement claiming that the Guardian’s Ben Jacobs had been the aggressor. 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.
Gianforte has defeated Democrat Rob Quist to win the seat formerly held by Ryan Zinke, who President Trump tapped earlier this year to be his Interior Secretary. According to the Associated Press, with 96 percent of the vote in, Gianforte was winning 51 percent to Quist’s 43 percent. Libertarian candidate Mark Wicks was taking 6 percent.
The race was roiled in the final hours after Gianforte allegedly assaulted Jacobs after the reporter asked him about the Congressional Budget Office’s scoring of the GOP health bill, the American Health Care Act.
Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin — who had donated $250 to Gianforte’s campaign — announced he was charging the GOP nominee with misdemeanor assault. Gianforte must now appear in court by June 7. If convicted, he faces a possible maximum fine of $500 or up to six months in jail.
Gianforte also didn’t exactly embrace the GOP presidential nominee last fall, but this time around he didn’t shy away from Trump, promising to work with him if elected. The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and Vice President Pence also traveled to the state on his behalf.
In his victory speech, Gianforte also echoed many of the themes of Trump’s campaign.
“Tonight Montanans are sending a wake-up call to the Washington, D.C. establishment,” Gianforte said. “Montanans said Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi can’t call the shots. Montanans said, ‘We’re going to drain the swamp.’