Republican Greg Gianforte has won a special election for Montana’s at-large House of Representatives seat, over Democrat Rob Quist, despite assaulting Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs on the eve of the election.
Gianforte was projected the winner of Montana’s special election just after midnight eastern time on Friday morning. The results appeared to be a shock to Democrats on social media, and sent a jolt through the mainstream media.
Just a day ago, Gianforte was answering to Montana authorities for knocking Jacobs over during an interview ahead of his final campaign event in Bozeman Wednesday night. As Jacobs was attempting to ask him a question about the Republican alternative to Obamacare in a private room, Gianforte reportedly assaulted the reporter, leaving him sprawled out and breaking his glasses.
Authorities announced Thursday morning that Gianforte would face misdemeanor assault charges and would have to appear in court in June.
But by the time Gianforte committed the crime, nearly 40% of Montana’s 700,000 votes had been cast. Montana is a heavily rural state, and most people elect to mail in their ballot in the weeks ahead of the election.
Now that he’s won election to Congress, Democrats will have a difficult time keeping Gianforte out of office, misdemeanor assault conviction or not. The outcome of his trial won’t affect the results, and Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican House majority leader said Thursday that he will not prevent Gianforte from taking his seat.
Democrats can only hope they can keep Gianforte accountable through constituent action.
Importantly for President Donald Trump, Gianforte’s win marks the latest retained Republican seat, kept by the GOP even as the seat-holder was drafted into the Trump administration. It also suggests that, despite reports of Trump’s lack of popularity, Republicans are still capable of winning statewide office – something that could worry Democrats looking to retake the House and Senate in 2018.