MTPR

Montana politics

In a debate that seemed as late as Friday not likely to happen, Republican Ryan Zinke met Democrat John Lewis in a statewide debate that focused on experience and education Monday night in Billings.

Montana PBS had already cancelled broadcast coverage after Zinke cited a scheduling conflict, but the Monday evening debate was available across the state on radio. You can listen to the debate from Yellowstone Public Radio.

Neither candidate has widespread name recognition – Zinke having served in the state legislature and Lewis as state director for former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus – so the debates are a vital piece of both men’s campaigns, according to University of Montana political science professor Christopher Muste.

I think Zinke will attack Lewis for being inexperienced and Lewis will attack Zinke for being out of touch and having extreme views on a number of issues,” Muste said in the pre-debate analysis with Montana Public Radio.

The debate, in the end, was largely a civil and substantive affair. Zinke stuck hard to the issues of education and energy independence, claiming that Montana “had enough coal to support the nation at peak consumption for the next 100 years.”

Lewis countered that Zinke would pursue oil and gas exploration at all times and criticized him for not support limits on energy exploration near Glacier National Park, a position supported by current U.S. Rep. Steve Daines.

On education, Zinke stated he rejected the increasingly controversial learning standards known as Common Core and wanted to boost more training for skilled labor.

Lewis focused his efforts in staking out support for higher education and reducing student loans. He said by financing student loans “much like you would a house” and ensuring continued access to Pell Grants, he could cut the amount of debt many Montana students have. He added that Zinke would cut support for higher education, making it more expensive for students.

The two meet again on Saturday for a debate in Bozeman.

Eric Whitney: Howdy and Welcome to "Capitol Talk," our weekly political analysis show. I'm Eric Whitney filling in for Sally Mauk.

Greg Gianforte: Montana sent a strong message tonight that we want a congressman who will work with President Trump to make America and Montana great again.

Mark Wicks was the Libertarian candidate for Montana's U.S. House seat in the 2017 special election.
Courtesy Mark Wicks

The Libertarian in yesterday’s special congressional election says he’s getting accused of being a spoiler candidate.

Mark Wicks posted on Facebook today that some people upset about Republican Greg Gianforte’s election to the U.S House of Representatives are taking out their frustrations on him:

Greg Gianforte and his wife, Susan, celebrate victory in the U.S. House race May 25, 2017 in Bozeman, MT.
Corin Cates-Carney

Greg Gianforte won the special election for Montana’s lone seat in the U.S. House in an early test of support for the Trump Administration. His win came one day after Gianforte was charged for assaulting a reporter.

In his victory speech at a Bozeman hotel, the Republican second-time candidate Gianforte told a crowd of supporters that Montana just sent a wakeup call to the political establishment in Washington D.C.

Updated at 4:55 a.m. ET

Republican Greg Gianforte won the special election for Montana's lone congressional seat on Thursday despite an election eve misdemeanor assault charge for allegedly body-slamming a reporter.

Montana Elects Greg Gianforte To The US House Of Representatives

May 25, 2017
Greg Gianforte.
Courtesy Gianforte campaign

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Republican multimillionaire Greg Gianforte won Montana's only U.S. House seat on Thursday despite being charged a day earlier with assault after witnesses said he grabbed a reporter by the neck and threw him to the ground.

Voters cast ballots at the Missoula County Fairgrounds, May 25, 2017.
Josh Burnham

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.

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin speaks during a press conference on the Gianforte assault in Bozeman, May 25, 2017.
Corin Cates-Carney

Greg Gianforte is not responding to the Gallatin County Sheriff’s request for an interview in the investigation that led to him being charged with misdemeanor assault.

According to a Ben Jacobs, a reporter for the Guardian, Gianforte "body slammed" him as Jacobs attempted to interview him Wednesday night.

Election administrators around Montana report fairly high turnout for the special election so far. Cascade and Missoula Counties had received about 70 percent of absentee ballots by 3:00 p.m. Yellowstone County reports that about half of registered voters have already voted.

Several county administrators say voters have called wanting to change their votes after last night’s incident.

U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte.
Bree Zender

Reactions to Republican U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte being charged with misdemeanor assault last night for allegedly attacking newspaper reporter Ben Jacobs is rolling in.

At 10 a.m., Republican Senator Steve Daines tweeted “Greg Gianforte needs to apologize.”

*Updated Thurs. 5/25 at 2:30 p.m. 

GOP Candidate Greg Gianforte faces misdemeanor assault charges for "body slamming" a reporter for The Guardian at his campaign headquarters last night, on the eve of today’s special election to fill Montana’s lone U.S. House Seat. He must appear in Gallatin County Justice Court by June 7. 

Crime reporter Whitney Bermes for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle first heard the assault report on a police scanner, as she was packing up to leave the newsroom and go home for the evening.

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