GREAT FALLS – Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte held a solid lead over Democratic challenger Kathleen Williams in Montana’s only U.S. House seat Wednesday morning and appeared headed to winning his first full term.
With nearly 90% of the vote totals in, Gianforte had 53% of the vote and a 35,000-vote lead over Williams, who had 45%. Libertarian Elinor Swanson had the remaining 3%.
The race hadn’t been officially called as of Wednesday morning, as thousands of votes were still uncounted in the Democratic-leaning cities of Bozeman and Missoula.
Gianforte is a former software company founder who moved to Bozeman in the mid-1990’s. He and his wife Susan co-founded RightNow Technologies. The company employed more than 500 people when it was sold to Oracle Corp. in 2012 for $1.8 billion.
He sought the Montana Governer’s Office in 2016 but was defeated by incumbent Democrat Steve Bullock.
Gianforte first won Montana’s sole congressional seat in a May 2017 special election — the day after he threw to the ground and punched reporter Ben Jacobs of the Guardian, at a campaign event in Bozeman. Gianforte later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault.
He has closely aligned himself with President Trump and the administration’s policies. He backed the 2017 GOP tax-cut bill, supports increased military spending and securing the border.
Willams, also from Bozeman, won a six-way Democratic primary election in June to challenged Gianforte for the seat. She moved to Montana in the 1990s. She is a former state legislator, representing a Bozeman House district from 2011 to 2016.
Her primary focus while running has been on fixing health care and she said she would have voted against the GOP tax-cut bill.
She also highlighted her record in the legislature including her work on bills that required health insurers to cover the cost of clinical trials for cancer patients and one that enabled the creation of more local retail-food producers.
-Mike Dennison reporting for MTN News