Gianforte outlasted Democrat Rob Quist, a first-time politician with a background in music, and Libertarian Mark Wicks in the May 25 special election. He received 50.2 percent of the vote compared to Quist’s 44.1 percent. Wicks was at 5.7 percent.
It was an election that saw many national outside groups pour millions of dollars into advertising efforts. Historic early voting numbers in the state proved to be the key for Gianforte. He got out to a solid lead on Quist with absentee ballots, and it was too big of a hole for the musician to climb out of — even with the late developments in the race.
The race was being held to 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, and the state hasn’t voted Democrat for president in 50 years.
Check below for live results of the much-anticipated election,:
Final Results & Updates
The results table above is powered by the Decision Desk HQ. Our running updates from election night are below.
UPDATE, 1:35 a.m. EDT: Total ballots counted in the race look as if they will surpass the amount cast in the 2014 election, around 375,000.
Early voting played a big role in that figure, as almost 90 percent of all votes in the Yellowstone County were cast ahead of Election Day.
UPDATE, 11:58 p.m. EDT: Two hours after the polls closed, Gianforte was the projected winner of the race. The Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman was the first analyst to project a win for Gianforte, followed by Decision Desk HQ.
UPDATE, 11:56 p.m. EDT: A large pile of ballots from Democrat-heavy Missoula County poured in from precincts, and Gianforte’s lead stayed steady at around 7 percent over Quist. The county seemed like one of the best opportunities for Quist to gain ground on Gianforte, but to no avail.
UPDATE, 11:15 p.m. EDT: A majority of the early vote has been counted, and it shows Gianforte with a small, but growing lead.
Many of the precincts that have reported show similar trends to the November 2016 presidential election, which Donald Trump won overwhelmingly in the state. Some of the state’s most rural counties still have to report, and many political analysts are predicting a win for Gianforte.
UPDATE, 11 p.m. EDT: Garfield County has 100 percent of precinct reporting, and it doesn’t look good for Quist’s chances, as the vote tally appears to fall in line with the results of the 2016 presidential election.
Trump won the county by overwhelming margins — 91.2 percent to Hillary Clinton‘s 4.7 percent.
UPDATE, 10:42 p.m. EDT: Early results show an even race, but that’s not taking into account the way precincts in the state historically lean.
The New York Times precinct result map shows that some of Montana’s most rural and GOP-leaning areas are still out, putting Quist into quite the early hole to find his way out of.
UPDATE, 10:25 p.m. EDT: Betting markets are predicting good news for Gianforte, and so are the early polling numbers.
The Associated Press reported that 28 of 44 precincts have already reported in Yellowstone County, the biggest one in Montana. Gianforte held an early 56-37 percent lead with almost 50,000 of its votes being tallied.
“That’s a pretty huge deficit for Quist to dig out of in a county where he probably needs to be within 5 percentage points of Gianforte to win,” FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver said.
UPDATE, 10:15 p.m. EDT: Results are trickling in, and New York Times political analyst Cohn said they look good for Gianforte, though it’s not known whether the votes were cast on Election Day or via absentee ballot.
Quist got out to an early advantage with 17 percent precincts reporting, but it’s with the assistance of Democrat-leaning Missoula County. He’s reportedly up 34 percentage points in early returns in the county.
UPDATE, 10 p.m. EDT: Polls are now officially closed, but people standing in line as they closed will still be allowed to vote. The results will now start to be tallied and should start filtering in within the next 30 minutes.
But as Cohn said, it could be quite a while before a winner is determined in the race.
The first votes that will be calculated are the absentee votes, which accounted for 272,218 votes.
UPDATE, 9:40 p.m. EDT: Some important areas to watch, according to FiveThirtyEight, include Billings and Kalispell, which account for 23 percent of the vote in the state. Those two areas have some of the biggest Republican counties in Montana, and it’s an area that Quist hopes to carve some votes out of.
Then there’s Missoula and Bozeman, which accounts for another 23 percent of the vote. Missoula is home to the University of Montana and is known to vote liberal, and the same goes for Bozemen with Montana State University. Quist will likely need to carry these two areas in order to see a positive outcome at the end of the evening.
Race Background & PollingThere 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.
Then came Wednesday night, and everything was thrown for a loop.
Gianforte Charged With AssaultGianforte 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.
A quick poll performed by economist David Rothschild did show Gianforte losing some ground in the past week, but was still leading the race.