Republican Greg Gianforte defeated Democrat Kathleen Williams in Montana's U.S. House race last night to win his first full term in office. With nearly all votes counted today, Gianforte won by a margin of 6.1 percent. He got 51.6 percent of the vote to Williams’ 45.5.
Neal Ullman, a spokesperson for Kathleen Williams’ campaign says misleading campaign ads may have contributed to Williams’ defeat but doesn’t know what other factors played a part.
“Certainly we could have performed in certain areas of the state, but we feel like we put it all out there on the line and had a great campaign.”
Williams is a former state lawmaker from Bozeman who benefited from a fundraising surge in the final months of the race.
With Gianforte’s win, Ullman says he wants to see Gianforte take what he learned on the campaign trail to Washington.
“We hope that he’ll take some of the lessons that we heard from Montanans: that we can have conversations about thorny issues, that we can disagree without being disagreeable, and that we need more public input from our lone U.S. representative. We hope that he’ll do that now that he’s been elected to his own full term.”
Gianforte defended the seat he won in a special election last year by campaigning as a strident supporter of President Donald Trump. He called the race a choice between standing with Trump or going back to the era of former President Barack Obama.
Gianforte declined interview requests today, and released a statement saying, “Today, I renew my commitment to serve all Montanans, whether I earned your vote or not.”
He says he will continue to work with Trump on the economy, community safety, and keeping public lands public.
Gianforte is best known nationally for pleading guilty to assaulting Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs in 2017. The attack emerged as a campaign issue when President Trump praised Gianforte for the assault during an October rally.
Williams sought to become the first Democrat in Montana's only House seat in 22 years and the first woman to be elected to federal office in Montana since Jeannette Rankin in 1941.