by Joey Derrico
The special election in Montana to replace the congressional seat of newly appointed Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke turned out to be much closer than expected. Montana was a state President Trump won by 20 percentage points and, furthermore, no Democrat had held the at-large congressional seat in two decades. The Republican candidate was Greg Gianforte, a billionaire who made his earnings by selling his company RightNow Technologies to Oracle in 2012 for $1.8 billion. The Democratic candidate was Rob Quist, a small business owner and folk singer with significant name recognition in Montana.
On the eve of election night, a reporter for the Guardian was pressing Gianforte for a comment on the newly released CBO (Congressional Budget Office) score for the Republican-led American Healthcare Act. Gianforte, in his own campaign office at the time, quickly became agitated with the Guardian reporter, saying, “I’m sick and tired of you guys [reporters]!” When the Guardian reporter, Ben Jacobs, persisted with his question, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck and slammed him to the ground, breaking Jacob’s glasses through the force of impact. Jacobs notified police of the incident and turned over his audio tapes to support his account. Local authorities charged Gianforte with a misdemeanor assault, who has until June 7 to appear in court.
Nevertheless, Gianforte won the special election with fifty percent of the vote compared to Quist’s forty-three percent. Many experts believe this outcome is due to Montana’s high rate of early and absentee voting. In fact, pollsters had estimated that seven out of ten likely voters had voted before election day. During his victory speech, Gianforte directly apologized to Jacobs, saying, “I should not have responded the way I did, for that I’m sorry. I should not have treated that reporter that way, and for that, I’m sorry, Mr. Ben Jacobs.”