Montana GOP Candidate's Assault Charge Hangs Over Tight Special Election

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Early election results show Lewis and Clark County voters favoring Democrat Rob Quist over Republican Greg Gianforte in the race to fill the vacant U.S. House seat held by Rep. Ryan Zinke, a Republican, who resigned to become secretary of the Interior.

Gianforte had been favoured to win in Montana, where Republicans have held the lone House seat for two decades and where Trump won by more than 20 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election.

And, as voters told reporters from Montana Public Radio as they went to the polls Thursday, they didn't necessarily see the altercation between Gianforte and Jacobs as a disqualifier.

The Republican candidate focused on protecting the 2nd Amendment and tried to tie Rob Quist, a first-time candidate, to liberal Democrats such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. While the New Jersey-raised Gianforte issued a statement denying the charges, few were buying it. Jacobs audio recording of the encounter and the eyewitness account of a Fox News crew undercut the Republican claim-adding credence to the reporter's charge that he was decked.

The frontrunner for a Congressional seat in Montana was charged with assault after allegedly attacking a reporter. Montana voters are heading to the polls Thursday, May 25, 2017, to decide a nationally watched congr.

Gianforte was in a private office preparing for an interview with Fox News when Jacobs came in without permission, campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon said.

In the end, though, the Republican emerged Thursday night as Montana's new congressman, a comfortable win that may temper Democrats' hopes for a massive anti-Trump wave to sweep them back into power in Washington in 2018.

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin made the announcement shortly before midnight Wednesday in a written statement, about six hours after the attack on reporter Ben Jacobs of The Guardian.

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"It's also not coincidental that this happened now", CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said on air Thursday.

Mr Trump and Vice President Mike Pence recorded robocalls to voters on Mr Gianforte's behalf, and Republican groups poured millions into ads criticising Mr Quist for property tax liens and unpaid debts, which Mr Quist said stemmed from a botched gallbladder surgery.

"I called Greg Gianforte and congratulated on his victory".

Gianforte was a strong favorite throughout the campaign and that continued even after authorities charged him with misdemeanor assault on Wednesday.

Greg Gianforte spent the day of his greatest political victory out of sight, avoiding questions about the assault charge filed against him on the eve of a congressional race that some cast as a referendum on Donald Trump's presidency.

Alaska Dispatch News reporter Nathaniel Herz told police earlier this month that Republican state Sen. "Jacobs grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground". After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined.

Asked if assaulting a reporter is appropriate behavior, California Rep. Duncan Hunter said, "Of course not". Gianforte has been ordered to appear in local court by June 7th. In 2006, the Democratic nominee for governor of Minnesota lost a close race after accusing a reporter who asked tough questions of being "a Republican whore". A reporter from the Guardian accused the tech millionaire of slamming him to the ground and breaking his glasses in an altercation Wednesday afternoon at Gianforte's campaign headquarters in Bozeman. I don't think that we are in a "post-truth" age, but clearly we are living in a time when numerous basic facts of political reality are up for grabs.

Three of Montana's biggest newspapers pulled their endorsements of Gianforte but did not endorse an opponent.