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By Phillip Stucky
Republican candidate Greg Gianforte won the Montana special election to replace former Rep. Ryan Zinke late Thursday, according to the Associated Press.
The Republican earned 50.6 percent of the vote, with 82 percent of precincts reporting as of 1:00 AM. Democratic challenger Rob Quist came in a close second with 43.6 percent, according to the New York Times.
BREAKING: Republican Greg Gianforte wins Montana's U.S. House special election after being charged with assaulting reporter.
— The Associated Press (@AP) May 26, 2017
A recount is only automatically generated by Montana state rules if the race is an absolute tie, but the losing candidate has as many as five days to file for a manual recount provided that the margin of defeat doesn’t equal one-fourth of one percent of the total votes cast.
Republicans dominated political spending in the race. Conservative groups invested a grand total of $5.6 million in political donations and ad spending, compared to $656,423 for Democrats according to Roll Call.
Republicans have controlled Montana’s only federal representative for the last 23 years, and the party currently controls both the state’s Senate and House of Representatives.
Gianforte ran against Democratic Governor Steve Bullock in 2016 but lost with only 46 percent of the vote. Bullock earned 50.2 percent of the vote. Alternatively, President Donald Trump carried the state with a 21 percent lead over Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton. Gianforte didn’t benefit from a “Trump bump” in 2016, something that the president was determined to fix in a robocall campaign Wednesday.
“If you don’t vote tomorrow, the liberal Democrats running for Congress will decimate and dismantle all that we’ve done,” Trump said on the call. “We can’t afford another Nancy Pelosi and the liberal Democrats taking over Congress and really hurting our country.”
Quist’s campaign centered around his statewide reputation as a singer.
Alternatively, ads placed in support of Gianforte slammed the singer for his liberal policies.
Gianforte was widely expected to win. The Cook Political Report rated the race as “likely Republican, and the University of Virginia’s Crystal Ball agreed.
All that changed when Gianforte allegedly “body slammed” a Guardian reporter after he asked the candidate a question about Republican-controlled healthcare.
Republicans won the Kansas Special election to replace former Rep. Mike Pompeo, but Democrats led in the Georgia special election by a small enough lead to force the race into a runoff election between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel.
There are also special elections scheduled in South Carolina and California.