Republican Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte, left, on the campaign trail with Donald Trump, Jr., and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana). Photo: Greg for Montana
National | Politics

Native turnout fails to sway closely-watched election in Montana





The Native vote in Montana failed to sway a closely-watched election in Montana on Thursday, resulting in a victory for a Republican candidate who was charged with assault only a day earlier.

Republican Greg Gianforte won 50 percent of the vote, compared to 44 percent for Democrat Rob Quist, according to the Montana Secretary of State. But results from Indian Country painted a different picture.

In Big Horn County, for example, Quist won 50 percent of the vote, compared to 44 percent for Gianforte. Native Americans represent 64.8 percent of the population there, which is home to the Crow Tribe.

In Glacier County, home to the Blackfeet Nation, Quist won 64 percent of the vote while Gianforte secured just 30 percent. Native Americans make up 62.8 percent of the population there.

And over in Roosevelt County, where Native Americans represent 57.5 percent of the population. Quist won 49 percent of the vote, the most of the three candidates on the ballot. The Fort Peck Tribes are based there.

Although the overall results weren't extremely close, a stronger Native turnout could have swayed the election. That's happened in the past, most notably with the 2006 victory of Democrat Sen. Jon Tester over Republican Conrad Burns, who was the incumbent.

There was no incumbent in this election, though. It was called to fill the U.S. House seat vacated by Ryan Zinke, who now serves as Secretary of the Interior under President Donald Trump.

Gianforte was already running an unpopular campaign in a state that overwhelmingly voted for Trump last November before he was charged with misdemeanor assault on Wednesday. He allegedly "body slammed" a reporter before what was to be his last rally and apologized for the incident after laying low on election day.

"Last night I made a mistake and I took an action I can't take back and I am not proud of what happened," Gianforte said during his victory speech on Thursday night, the Associated Press reported. "I should not have responded the way I did and for that I am sorry."

Gianforte ran for governor of Montana in 2016. He came under fire during that campaign after blaming tribal culture for a lack of economic success in Indian Country.

Montana only has one seat in the U.S. House.

Read More on the Story:
Greg Gianforte elected next U.S. congressman for Montana (The Billings Gazette 5/25)
Greg Gianforte apologizes to reporter after winning U.S. House race (AP 5/25)
Gianforte wins U.S. House seat (The Great Falls Tribune 5/25)
Sheriff addresses Gianforte case, campaign contribution (The Great Falls Tribune 5/25)
Greg Gianforte, Montana Republican, Captures House Seat Despite Assault Charge (The New York Times 5/25)
Republican wins Montana election one night after being charged with assault (The Washington Post 5/26)

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Republican candidate to replace Ryan Zinke charged with assault (5/25)
Crow Tribe welcomes Vice President Pence to coal mine on homelands (May 12, 2017)
GOP candidate blames tribal culture for lack of economic 'success' (August 22, 2016)