Thursday's nationally-watched election for Montana's sole congressional seat got a last-minute twist when the Republican candidate, Greg Gianforte, was charged with misdemeanor assault for grabbing a reporter by the neck and throwing him to the ground. Ben Jacobs, a reporter with British news outlet The Guardian, said the candidate "body slammed" him and broke his glasses after he asked him about health care in a room off a campaign event.
Initially, Gianforte did not issue an apology but instead claimed that Jacobs grabbed him by the wrist before the two fell to the ground, an account that was not in line with the Fox News reporter's description of the incident.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday suggested that Gianforte's behavior was somewhat influenced by rough tactics exhibited by some of President Donald Trump's campaign supporters during rallies previous year.
Enough to beat his Democratic rival.
Mr Gianforte's victory is a boost for Republicans, who are anxious Mr Trump's political stumbles and the unpopularity of the healthcare bill passed by the House will hurt their chances to hold a 24-seat House majority in next year's elections.
Montana Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) tweeted, "Greg Gianforte needs to apologize", on Thursday.
Federal records show that the sheriff donated $250 to Gianforte's congressional campaign in March. The Democratic candidate in that race leads according to the most recent polling and took the plurality of votes in the first round. In a statement, Gianforte's spokesperson, issued a statement claiming that Jacobs entered the headquarters without permission and was the aggressor in the situation.
That means anywhere from a third to a fourth of the overall vote will happen at the polls Thursday. Observers consider the Montana special election and others around the country as a barometer of political sentiment and a potential foreshadowing of the 2018 midterms. "The last time you were here you did the same thing". But whether those effects are enough to sway the outcome is a guessing game, he said.
The Associated Press declared Gianforte the victor early Friday.
House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called Gianforte a "wannabe Trump" at her weekly news conference and said she hopes the people of Montana use the election as a chance to set a high standard of behavior for their children.
He will be taking the place of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.