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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

1st Montana Democrat Announces Bid Against US Rep. Gianforte

John Heenan, Democratic candidate for U.S. House.
Courtesy John Heenan
John Heenan of Billings Monday announced a bid to unseat newly elected U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte in next year's midterm race.

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An attorney on Monday announced a bid to unseat newly elected U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte in next year's midterm race, becoming the first Democrat to establish a campaign committee to take on the Republican who attacked a reporter the day before a special election.

John Heenan of Billings said he would use his experience as a consumer protection lawyer to advocate for Montana residents, including working to increase access to "quality, affordable health care."

National Democrats are expected to target Gianforte in the midterm election and are sure to remind voters that he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of assaulting a reporter for the Guardian newspaper. The attack got widespread attention, but Gianforte prevailed over his Democratic opponent by 6 percentage points.

It remains to be seen if Democrats can field a candidate who can help the party wrest control of a seat that has been in Republican hands for two decades.

Gianforte announced shortly after winning the May 25 special election that he would seek a second term as Montana's sole representative in the U.S. House.

"Greg remains focused on being a strong voice for Montana and Montanans' way of life," his spokesman, Travis Hall, said in an email.

In an announcement emailed to reporters, Heenan used the vernacular of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in railing against the "rich and powerful" who "have been waging war on the middle class for many years now."

Heenan was among the team assembled by the commissioner of political practices last year to prosecute former state Rep. Art Wittich, a Republican from Bozeman, for campaign finance violations.

"As someone who has fought on behalf of Montanans in court against corporate special interests, I am running to fight for all of us whose voices are not being heard in Washington," Heenan said.

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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