Last night, the Republican candidate to fill Montana’s vacant U.S. House seat reportedly body-slammed a political reporter from international news outlet The Guardian.
Greg Gianforte was later charged with misdemeanor assault. But did the “body slam” affect how people are voting today? We sent reporters out to Bozeman, Missoula and the Flathead Valley to find out.
In Missoula, one voter, Crystal Charvat, said Gianforte’s assault charge was a game changer.
Here she is speaking with Montana Public Radio’s Edward O’Brien:
Crystal Charvat: I’m at a loss for words, really. I think that’s what really motivated me to come and vote today. I’ve actually never voted and I wasn’t going to vote, but I don’t want somebody like that representing us in Montana.
Edward O'Brien: "Somebody like that," what does that mean?
Crystal Charvat: An aggressive person. I would expect a representative to be more cool and collected, when you’re dealing with the press especially."
EO: Do you think that what happened with Mr. Gianforte could have any impact on the race or is it too late?
Crystal Charvat: Well, it got me down here. So, I think it could.
But not everyone’s vote was swayed by Gianforte’s assault charge. Here’s what Elaine and Lyle Moore had to say in Kalispell:
Elaine Moore: Sometimes the media can be very offensive
Lyle Moore: Frankly I think the reporter was way too aggressive. When he was asked to pull his microphone back and his camera, he didn't do it.
Here’s Vaughn Warriner in Kalispell.
Vaughn Warriner: And now the night before the election, what do they do? They bring some outsider in, barges in, causes a scene, and make Gianforte look bad, when it was his fault in the first place.
Nicky Ouellet: When you say they, who do you mean?
Vaughn Warriner: Who do you think. The Democrats.
And here’s James Baker in Bozeman.
James Baker: A lot of reporters get aggressive. And I guess, after the heat of a long campaign, people can lose tempers. But obviously I don’t endorse it, but I think that in some cases it’s understandable even if it isn’t forgivable.
Jeremy Hass, a voter in Missoula, says he thought the “body slam” was a fake news story.
Jeremy Hass: You see the headline and you’re like, seriously? Is that something that can actually happen? Then you read the article, check the source that it’s coming from and it’s like, this is crazy. I would never expect to hear something like that happen, let alone on the day before the election.
Kerry Pettit of Bozeman, says the body-slam went against the Republican candidate’s beliefs:
Kerry Pettit: Gianforte is professed to be a man of the bible and I’m sure he’s read the part about turning the other cheek. He’s an adult. He could use his words.
But many voters are thinking of issues beyond Gianforte’s assault charge. For Quist supporters in Bozeman and Missoula, the focus was on health care:
Ingrid Calle: Health care should be accessible to everybody.
Kerry Petitt: I think that’s one of the most critical issues of our time.
Sam Williams: I myself have pre-existing medical conditions. So, if I lose my health insurance, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get health insurance again until I’m 65 and can claim Medicare – but will that even be there when I’m 65? This is important to me, so I want to make my voice heard.
Kerry Petitt and Ingrid Calle were in Bozeman, and Sam Williams was in Missoula.
Up in the Flathead Valley, people said they voted for Montana values.
Lauren Taylor from Columbia Falls hadn’t planned on voting, but then she learned of Gianforte’s assault charge. She found something in Quist’s platform she could get behind.
Lauren Taylor: The whole public lands thing is extremely important to me. I’m not a hunter but I love to go fishing.
In Polson, Jessica Dexter said she based her support for Gianforte on one issue:
Jessica Dexter: Our gun rights are really important to me, so that's why I decided to vote.
And some voters are opting out of the two-party paradigm altogether. Tom Robinson of the Gallatin-Gateway area says he voted for Libertarian Mark Wicks.
Tom Robinson: I’m over the two parties thinking they run this country, it’s for the people. I’m tired of the political process.
Polls close at 8:00 p.m tonight. Eligible voters can register to vote up until the polls close at most county election offices.
We’ll be airing updates from watch parties in Bozeman and Missoula until final tallies are announced, you can also follow along online at mtpr.org.