MISSOULA – A national Republican Party group released an ad Thursday criticizing Montana Democratic congressional candidate Kathleen Williams on gun rights – perhaps the first major outside spending in the state’s U.S. House race.
The ad, released by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and distributed on the Internet, said the National Rifle Association gave Williams a “F” rating and labeled her a “true enemy of gun owners’ rights.”
Williams is challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte for Montana’s only U.S. House seat. Libertarian Elinor Swanson is also in the race.
Until now, Montana’s congressional race has attracted almost no spending by outside groups. Democrats haven’t won the seat since 1994.
Most public polls have shown Gianforte with a comfortable single-digit lead, although some polls have suggested the race may be closer.
Gianforte was scheduled to be in Missoula Thursday at a rally with President Donald Trump, who visited the state primarily to stump for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Rosendale.
Rosendale is locked in a close race with U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
Williams has said she’s a hunter and supporter of gun rights, but she’s also said the use of assault-style semiautomatic rifles should be regulated like machine guns.
Her campaign hadn’t formally responded by Thursday afternoon but suggested that the ad indicates the race may be closer than expected.
Williams outraised Gianforte in the third quarter, $2 million to $1.1 million, and her campaign said Thursday it has raised another $400,000 in the past two-and-a-half weeks.
-Mike Dennison reporting for MTN News