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Montana politics, elections and legislative news.

Gianforte Is Montana GOP's Candidate For US House Seat

Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte
Bree Zender
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Greg Ginaforte at a campaign stop in Missoula while running for Governor in the summer of 2016

Montana Republicans voted last night to nominate Greg Gianforte as their party’s candidate to run in the special election for the U.S. House. The software entrepreneur from Bozeman will face Democratic musician Rob Quist in the election May 25th.“The Republican party is on the move," Gianforte said after securing his party's endorsement, "and we are going to bring our conservative values to return liberty and freedom back to Montanans and this country and we will make America great again.”

Gianforte, who narrowly lost a bid to become Montana’s governor last November, beat out six other republican hopefuls vying for the party’s nomination for the U.S House.

Heading into the nominating convention in Helena last night, Republican State Senator Ed Buttrey from Great Falls pitched himself as the most qualified and electable candidate, challenging Gianforte’s ability to win the support of moderate voters.

Buttrey delivered his argument as one of the nomination hopefuls who each gave five minute stump speeches to the more than 200 voting Republican party delegates.

“Why did Donald Trump and Ryan Zinke have so much success in the November election? I think it is about electability," Buttrey said. "Both of these great men not only carried the Republican Party, but won the hearts and votes of the independents and many from the other party. This is a great phenomenon and one that, if we can replicate, will insure us of our second congressional victory in just the span of a few months.”

In his speech, Gianforte focused on touting support for policies outlined by President Donald Trump - destroying ISIS, strengthening the military, stopping bad trade deals and repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Last week Gianforte said he’d already received enough commitments from delegates to be the party’s nominee. And in his speech Monday night, even before officially being selected, he started attacking the Democratic opponent Rob Quist, who rose to Montana fame as part of the Mission Mountain Wood Band.

“We don’t need to send (House Minorty Leader) Nancy Pelosi a court musician who wants to socialize medicine," Gianforte said.

Before the Republican delegates voted on who should run to represent them in Washington D.C., members of the GOP passed between small meeting rooms in the Helena hotel, speaking with candidates and learning about their agendas.

Ron Johnson from Dillon stood chatting in Gianforte’s room, wearing a brown leather vest and a ‘Make America Great Again’ cap.

He says he trusts Gianforte’s experience as a businessman to help improve the state’s economy, and bring more jobs to the state. Johnson says over the last year people around Montana have learned the name ‘Gianforte’ and that will help him beat songwriter Rob Quist.

“I don’t know that much about him, Rob Quist," Johnson said, "but I do know a lot about Greg. People recognize him and so I think that it will be a race, but, again, we have to look at the economy of Montana. And we need to concentrate what it is going to take and what kind of individual it is going to take to help us.”

It only took one round of voting for Gianforte to win the support of a majority of GOP delegate votes. Gianforte, like Democrat Rob Quist, is a political outsider who has never held public office.

After securing this party’s nomination, Gianforte said his own name recognition, from the work he put into last year’s gubernatorial election, will help him win the special election May 25th. He also says he has political messages that will resonate with Montana voters.

“This is about draining the swamp in Washington DC and preserving Montana’s way of life," Gianforte said. "My opponent, on the Democrat side is arguing for sanctuary cities, a gun registry for gun owners, and he is also on record saying that socialism would be approved by everyone if it just had a better name.”

The Montana Democratic Party was quick to criticize the GOP nominee, releasing a statement calling Gianforte "out-of-touch" with state values. "Out of touch” is the same phrase Republicans are using to characterize Rob Quist. The Democratic party’s executive director said Gianforte is running for the state’s vacant U.S. House seat as a consolation prize after losing the governor’s race.

Monday morning, a conservative super PAC called the Congressional Leadership Fund announced a $700,000 ad campaign attacking Democratic candidate Rob Quist.

National and statewide efforts to place Republican Greg Gianforte or Democrat Rob Quist in the seat as Montana’s lone representative in the U.S. House will now start picking up pace, until the special election on May 25.

Corin Cates-Carney is the news director at Montana Public Radio. He joined MTPR in 2015 and is a graduate of the University of Montana School of Journalism.
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