(Update 12:20 a.m.) Democrat Mike Cooney has conceded the governor's race. Here's his full statement:
“Greg, congratulations. I congratulate you, your family and your campaign. I will do everything I can as Lt. Governor to make sure there is a smooth transition between our administrations. There’s no doubt our priorities and our visions for Montana are different. But I wish you the best as you continue your journey in public service.”
“I expect Mr. Gianforte to serve the state that we love with the best interests of all Montanans in mind. That’s another great thing about Montana. Public service answers to public accountability. My message to all of you - to voters and to the media - is that accountability doesn’t end here. It begins here.”
“Tonight ends a historic election in Montana. It was the most expensive race for governor, ever. But I still believe that people – Montanans – and our ideas, our responsibility, and our accountability, are what governs us. Not millionaires, not big corporations, not special interests.
It’s time to put the divisiveness behind us. Because this isn’t about Democrats or Republicans—it’s about Montanans and the values we share. This is Big Sky Country, the Treasure State, the Last Best Place. We have challenges and opportunities in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead. And we’re going to face them head on.”
“I will certainly do my part as your Lt. Governor for the next two months. And for the rest of my life as a Montanan. Thank you for your support. Thank you for entrusting me to serve this state that we all love. Thank you and good night.”
(Update 11:30 p.m.) Republican Greg Gianforte declared victory in the Montana governor's race, even as his opponent, Democrat Mike Cooney, has not conceded.
Watch Gianforte's speech Tuesday night:
(Update 11 p.m.) Democrat Mike Cooney's campaign said he's refusing to concede in the Montana governor's race, saying the calling of the race was "premature."
“There are literally Montanans still in line voting and major counties including Butte Silver Bow, Cascade, Hill and all of Indian Country have yet to be counted,” said Cooney for Montana Campaign Manager Brad Elkins, in a written statement released around 11 p.m. “This race isn’t over and Mike Cooney is not conceding the election."
As of 11:05 p.m., Republican Greg Gianforte led the race 51 percent to 46 percent. Gianforte, Montana's lone congressman, had about a 20,000 vote lead over Cooney, the state's lieutenant governor.
(1st REPORT) Republican Greg Gianforte is projected to win Montana's governor's race over Democrat Mike Cooney, according to The Associated Press.
Gianforte was leading by about 15,000 votes as of 10:45 p.m
— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) November 4, 2020
Gianforte, 59, co-founded RightNow Technologies in Bozeman in the mid-1990s, a software-development firm that grew into an international company with more than 1,000 employees. Oracle Corp. bought RightNow in 2012 for $1.8 billion, earning Gianforte and his wife, Susan, many millions of dollars.
The Gianfortes had founded and sold four other tech startups before moving from the East Coast to Montana in 1994.
Gianforte pitched his experience as a businessman during the campaign, saying he was best-suited to revive and grow the state’s economy. He also loaned or contributed $7.5 million of his own money to his campaign.
Gianforte has long been a contributor to Republican candidates in Montana, but didn’t run for office until 2016, when he lost a close race to Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.
The next year, he won Montana’s only congressional seat in a special election in May, after U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke resigned to become U.S. Interior secretary. Gianforte won re-election to that seat in 2018 before deciding in 2019 to run again for governor.
Cooney, 66, the state’s lieutenant governor since early 2016, has spent most of his adult life in politics, winning a seat in the Legislature at age 21, in Butte. He worked as an aide to then-U.S. Sen. Max Baucus before winning election three times as Montana’s secretary of state, from 1989-2000.
He also served as a state senator from Helena for two terms and worked as the head of a group that advocated for maternal and child health in Montana.
Cooney grew up in Butte, where his family ran a food brokerage. His grandfather, Frank Cooney, was Montana lieutenant governor and governor in the 1930s.
Bishop, a Kalispell businessman, ran a low-key campaign.