Gianforte elected to US House; apologizes to reporter

With 89 percent of precincts reporting, Giaforte led with 50.6 percent (181,371votes) to Quist's 43.6 percent (181,371 votes).

The reporter posted audio of the incident in which Gianforte appears to say: "The last time you came in here you did the same thing".

"Last night, I made a mistake and I took an action that I can't take back - and I'm not proud of what happened", he said during a victory rally in Bozeman, Mont. "That's the Montana way". "And for that I am sorry".

Quist told supporters that he called Gianforte to congratulate him on his win and to urge him to represent all Montanans.

Representative elect Greg Gianforte accepts the crowds congratulations during his victory speech after winning the special congressional election in Bozeman, Montana May 25, 2017, during a special congressional election called after former Rep. Ryan Zinke was appointed to lead the Interior Department.

The platform of Quist, a local folk singer and political newbie, has garnered support from left-wing activists as well as backing from one-time presidential contender Bernie Sanders.

Gianforte campaigned as a gun-loving Montanan endorsed by the National Rifle Association to build his credibility among hunting enthusiasts and to motivate gun rights activists to vote.

"I do not think this is acceptable behavior, but the choice will be made by the people of Montana", Ryan said Thursday.

Gianforte became involved in an altercation with Guardian US reporter Ben Jacobs on Wednesday on the final day after campaigning after Jacobs asked him a question about the American Health Care Act, the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. More than a third of the state's registered voters had cast absentee ballots before polls opened Thursday.

Three Montana newspapers who had previously endorsed the candidate withdrew their endorsement on Wednesday night, but President Donald Trump, who had endorsed Gianforte via a robocall, did not have a comment Thursday on the alleged assault.

Mr Gianforte could face additional, more serious charges once prosecutors review the evidence, Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert told Reuters.

He faces up to six months in county jail and a $500 fine if convicted of misdemeanor assault against a journalist from the British newspaper The Guardian.

"Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him", Alicia Acuna wrote in an online story.

"The only thing in Gianforte's statement that is factually correct is my name and my place of employment", Ben Jacobs said on ABC's "Good Morning America".

That Georgia seat - in the rapidly changing suburbs that largely rejected Trump despite being historically Republican - is more of the type of seat Democrats will need to flip in order to win back the House in 2018. Indeed, it's no wonder that Gianforte did not drop out of the race, for he had always been favored to win.

He said less committed Gianforte supporters could stay home Thursday, or other voters could be motivated to come out for Quist or Wicks.

Gianforte, a wealthy software executive, lost to Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock a year ago by about 4 points, even as President Trump rolled to a 20-point win in the state.

The development heightened the drama of an already highly scrutinized special election in the traditional Republican stronghold of Montana, which has proved to be a far closer race than expected.

  • Joanne Flowers