Montana special election: GOP's Greg Gianforte builds lead in early returns

The vacancy in Montana arose after President Donald Trump appointed the previous holder of the seat, Ryan Zinke, as interior secretary.

Jacobs was trying to ask Greg Gianforte a question about the Congressional Budget Office's score of the GOP healthcare bill to repeal Obamacare when the alleged assault happened. Despite the rebuke from Montana's media, Montana voters received robocalls from Trump and Vice President Mike Pence urging voters to back Gianforte. But they haven't held the state's congressional seat in over two decades.

Still, Gianforte opened a steady lead shortly after polls closed at 8 p.m., winning by wide margins in Republican strongholds like Yellowstone and Flathead counties. "But I can understand how somebody could push somebody's buttons", said Republican voter Tina Stark of Townsend, a suburb of Helena. "I just don't have much faith", Christie said.

It wasn't clear how the last-minute melee would affect the race.

Like a third of eligible voters in Montana, advertising executive Cailley Tonn of Bozeman had already mailed in her absentee ballot when the melee occurred at Gianforte's campaign headquarters.

Three of Montana's biggest newspapers pulled their endorsements of Gianforte - without endorsing his opponent - while leaders of both major parties called on him to apologize.

On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan urged Gianforte to apologize for the incident.

Gianforte defeated Democrat Rob Quist for a House seat vacated by former Rep.

"The body-slamming? Ah, yeah, it just seems a little too good to be true to me", said Chandler Ortman, who works in the restaurant industry in Bozeman and voted for Gianforte.

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"Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics" cites a variety of reasons for conservative disillusionment with the mainstream media, including the expanded social-safety net of the 1930s and at the internationalists who pushed the USA into the Second World War.

Gianforte was preparing for an interview with Fox News on Wednesday at a private office when Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, came in without permission, campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon said. She added that Gianforte then began to punch Jacobs. Gianforte refused to answer, and then allegedly became physically violent with Jacobs.

"I'm sick and exhausted of you guys", Gianforte can be heard saying in the audio tape.

Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault Wednesday, after a Guardian newspaper reporter who repeatedly questioned him about his stance on a proposed health care legislation said the candidate "body slammed" him and broke his glasses.

Gianforte was keeping a low profile Thursday and could not be reached for comment. He hammered Gianforte for telling a group of Washington lobbyists he was "thankful" the bill had passed while suggesting to Montana voters that he would have opposed it.

Gianforte, 56, was born in California, grew up in Pennsylvania, and went to college in New Jersey. He said of the politicians account: “The only thing that is factually correct.is my name and place of employment.”.

Quist remained mum about the incident, saying only that it's in the hands of law enforcement, and spent the day in Missoula, where he's having an election-night party of his own.

On Wednesday night, Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault. If convicted, he faces a possible maximum fine of $500 or up to six months in jail. Assaults that cause serious physical injuries or involve weapons are treated as felonies.

Gootkin also addressed media reports that he had contributed to Gianforte's campaign, acknowledging he had donated $250, but, "This contribution has nothing to do with our investigation which is now complete".

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