The time has come for Montanians to select who they want to represent them in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Polls for Thursday’s special election close at 10 p.m. ET across the state, and the first results are expected to filter in about 25 minutes later. A winner may not be known for a few hours.
The race is between Republican nominee Greg Gianforte, a businessman who was charged with assaulting a reporter Wednesday, Democratic nominee Rob Quist, a first-time politician with a background in music and Libertarian Mark Wicks.
Whoever wins the seat will fill the vacancy left by former Rep. Ryan Zinke, who was confirmed in March as the secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior. A Democrat hasn’t held a House seat in Montana since 1997.
Check below for live results of the much-anticipated election,:
There were very few public polls prior to Election Day, but they showed Gianforte with a lead from the beginning. The Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball projected the race as “likely Republican.”
A Gravis Marketing survey of 1,222 likely voters showed Gianforte with a 12-point lead over Quist in early April. The poll had the Republican ahead, 50-38, with a margin of error of 2.9 percent.
But a May 4 poll by Gravis showed Gianforte’s lead had slimmed to 8 points, and the possibility of flipping the seat blue for the first time in 20 years helped the race gain national attention.
Massive amounts of outside money continued to pour into campaigns as both national Democrats and GOPers sensed the importance of the seat moving forward, and the race turned into an ad war.
The top three outside spenders in the election — the Congressional Leadership Fund, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Republican National Committee — poured in almost $5 million, as of May 17, to back Gianforte.
Quist reported $340,000 in backing from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee while other Super PACs ponied up. In about a one-month span, Quist raised about $2.4 million, and his campaign surpassed the $5 million mark with one week to go.
National figures came out in support of both candidates, with President Donald Trump placing a robocall supporting Gianforte and Sen. Bernie Sanders traveling to Montana to campaign with Quist.
But a final poll by Gravis showed Gianforte back out to a 14-point lead, showing that the race may not be as close as anticipated. That’s despite internal GOP polling showing a tight election.
Then came Wednesday night, and everything was thrown for a loop.
Gianforte was holding an event at his campaign headquarters when he was approached by The Guardian U.S. reporter Ben Jacobs with a question about health care.
Gianforte snapped and “body slammed” the reporter, Jacobs alleged. The whole incident was captured on audio by media members present, and Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault by the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office just hours later.
Some questioned what role the assault charge would play in the outcome of the election.
But before polls even closed, there were close to 275,000 absentee ballots returned, meaning a good portion of voters had already selected their candidate prior to the incident.
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Democrat Rob Quist is trying to represent Montana’s at-large district in the House of Representatives. He’s been married to Bonni Willows for almost 40 years.
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