Montanans are voting today in a special election being held for the state's only seat in the House of Representatives. The seat became vacant after Ryan Zinke became the secretary of the interior for Donald Trump. The special election has been full of attacking advertisements from both candidates.
The candidates are Greg Gianforte (R) and Rob Quist (D).
Quist , from the small town of Cut Bank, is a singer turned politician. He served on the Montana Fine Arts Council and has worked with various charities.
While Montana is an extremely conservative state, this election has started to get people talking. Especially today.
Last night, Gianforte got in an altercation with a reporter from The Guardian. Today, on voting day Montanas are looking for answers. While there is no video footage of the incident, an audio recording, and testimony from a Fox News crew that witnessed the altercation seems to corroborate the reporter, Ben Jacobs', story.
Gianforte has been cited for misdemeanor assault. According to the Flathead Beacon, If Gianforte is convicted penalties could be up to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine. He must appear before June 7 in Gallatin County Justice Court.
A statement from the Gianforte campaign told a different version of events in which Jacobs was the aggressor.
"After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground," Gianforte spokesperson Shane Scanlon said. "It's unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ." (Taken from an NPR article that reprinted the statement)
As a young Montanan, I am saddened to see our state in the news under such horrible circumstances. The real question that I have after hearing the tape of the incident, is why? Why did Gianforte feel like violence was the best way to deal with the situation? Why was security not called if Gianforte felt uncomfortable with how the reporter was acting?
At this point, I feel it is important to note that while polls close today, many Montanas have already cast their votes.
The main reason I personally am concerned about this incident is the treatment of the press. In this country the press in under attack. We have seen President Trump denounce the press for months now. Many news sources are connecting this even in Montana with Trump's lack of respect for the press. I strongly believe that we need the press. Individuals cannot go down to every town hall and news conference to get their questions answered by candidates. That's why we have the press. They are there to inform the public on their representatives and ask the tough questions so that the public has the answers they need to make informed decisions.
While the press is by no means perfect (are really any institutions in our country perfect?) they are important and deserve to be treated with respect.
Lastly, this reporter is a human being and deserves to be treated with the respect that all human beings deserve. Like we tell our children, violence is never the answer.
-- If you would like to stay updated on Gianforte's legal situation the Gallatin Media Center has been posting updates.