| BOZEMAN, Mont.
BOZEMAN, Mont. Republican Greg Gianforte defeated a political novice to win Montana’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, barely 24 hours after he was charged with assaulting a reporter who asked him about the Republican healthcare bill.
A race that was expected to be a test of President Donald Trump’s political influence ahead of next year’s U.S. congressional elections was jolted by the charge against Gianforte, a wealthy technology executive who had urged voters to send him to Congress to help Trump.
Speaking to cheering supporters in Bozeman after his win, Gianforte apologized for the incident and said he was not proud of his actions.
“I should not have responded the way I did, and for that I’m sorry,” Gianforte said. “I should not have treated that reporter that way.”
Gianforte beat Democrat Rob Quist, a banjo player and first-time candidate who had focused his campaign on criticism of the Republican effort to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s healthcare law. CNN projected Gianforte would win. With 96 percent of the vote counted, he led Quist by 51 percent to 43 percent.
Gianforte prevailed despite being charged on Wednesday night with misdemeanor assault on Ben Jacobs, a political correspondent for the U.S. edition of the Guardian newspaper, who said the candidate “body-slammed” him during a campaign event in Bozeman.
Gianforte’s victory is a boost for Republicans, who are worried Trump’s political stumbles and the unpopularity of the healthcare bill passed by the House will hurt their chances of holding on to a 24-seat House majority in next year’s elections.
But the relatively close margin of the race in Republican-leaning Montana was encouraging to Democrats, who are already focused on next month’s hotly contested special House election in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia.
Gianforte had been favored to win in Montana, where Republicans have held the lone House…