Right at the stroke of midnight Eastern Time, Decision Desk HQ projected that Republican Greg Gianforte has defeated Democrat Rob Quist in the special election to fill Montana’s at-large House of Representatives seat. At the time of the projection, Gianforte had captured 50.9% of the vote compared to Quist’s 43.2%. Libertarian Mark Wicks had 5.8%. This was with about 62% of the precincts counted.
We project that Greg Gianforte has won the #MTAL special election. #MTAL https://t.co/61tksgfeKf
— Decision Desk HQ (@DecisionDeskHQ) May 26, 2017
And Dave Wasserman also projected a victory for Gianforte:
Projection: Greg Gianforte (R) elected to Congress in #MTAL special, defeating Rob Quist (D).
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) May 26, 2017
This special election to elect a replacement for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke as Montana’s lone member of the House of Representatives suddenly got a lot more exciting when Gianforte bodyslammed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs on Wednesday night.
While Montana went for President Donald Trump by 20 points last November, the recent controversies swirling around the Trump administration and the House’s passage of the unpopular American Health Care Act provided glimpses of hope for Quist. Gianforte getting charged with misdemeanor assault for attacking a journalist for asking him questions about the health care bill provided a potentially bigger opening for the Democratic candidate.
A large number of absentee votes had already been cast prior to election day, with 259,558 having already been received before the polls opened on Thursday. Considering this is a special election, turnout was expected to be lower than normal.
There were reports of voters who had already mailed in their ballots asking if they could change their votes following the Gianforte news. However, per Montana law, already-cast absentee ballots cannot be changed.
A Democrat hasn’t held the seat since Pat Williams in 1997. In the last election, Zinke easily defeated the Democratic challenger, 56% – 41%. No Democrat had come within ten points of winning the seat since the 2000 election.
[image via screengrab]
Follow Justin Baragona on Twitter: @justinbaragona
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