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Gianforte Plans Seven City Tour To Close Out House Campaign

U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte at a "meet and greet" with supporters in Great Falls, MT, May 23, 2017.
Corin Cates-Carney
U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte at a "meet and greet" with supporters in Great Falls, MT, May 23, 2017.

The candidates in Thursday's election for the state’s lone seat in the U.S. House are anticipating a close finish, and it’s fueling a final push for voter turnout in the final days on the campaign trail.

The GOP’s Greg Gianforte held the first of three "meet and greet" events Tuesday morning in Great Falls. He stood among a couple dozen supporters under a pavilion at a city park, where local Republican leaders supplied coffee and donuts for the chance to mingle with the candidate.

After a few handshakes and pictures, Gianforte addressed the crowd, urging them to join the Republican effort to get out the vote:

"I know you are here because you are supporters, so I want to say thank you. But this race is closer than it should be. And that’s why I’m humbly asking for your help over the next couple of days. Please donate at least one hour to calling friends and family to make sure they vote Thursday, May 25th,” Gianforte said.

Gianforte is ending this 85-day special election campaign with a tour of seven of the state’s larger cities, ending in his hometown of Bozeman.

In Great Falls, Gianforte repeated his campaign promises to help President Donald Trump drain the swamp and make America great again. The software entrepreneur turned political contender also attacked his Democratic opponent Rob Quist's authenticity. Both Gianforte and Quist have fought to portray themselves as the true representative of Montana values.

For his part, Gianforte is inserting himself into the parable of the faithful servant, as he has routinely over the course of this election, merging his political ambition, affection for Montana, with his faith of in the New Testament:

“I’m running, again, to be that strong voice for you," Gianforte said. "I’ve spent my life creating jobs here and giving back into the communities. As I said at the beginning, to whom much is given, much is expected. I am running, not because I want a job, but because I want to serve.”

Among the crowd at the GOP event was George Paul, former chairman of the Cascade County Republican Central Committee. He and others at the event, say they're concerned about this country. And Paul says Gianforte offers a chance to keep the momentum of conservative support behind Trump rolling:

"I’ve been involved in politics my entire life, back to when I was 15-years old," Paul said. "And rarely do you come up with a candidate that really can inspire people. And this is what I think we have with Greg Gianforte. You don’t have to question his record, it’s obvious what he has done in business, he’s a skilled negotiator, he knows how to deal with people. I think what we saw with Trump was a definite statement made by voters in America, that it is time to drain that swamp. Well, Greg Gianforte comes along and he’s our opportunity to have something similar go on in Montana.”

Paul says the tightening of this special election race between Gianforte and Democrat Rob Quist is due to the effort put into this race by Democrats. He says he doesn't like how they’re going about their campaigning, but he says the Democrat’s strategy is working:

“I think you have to hand it to the handlers that are running the Quist campaign. The Quist campaign has done just an absorbing job deluging the public with all their information, none of this is based in fact. Gianforte is not from New Jersey, he came to live in Montana 25 years ago. He’s doesn’t block public access, and it is embarrassing to me as a Montanan to have Mr. Quist stand up and say ‘I am a real Montanan,’ and then tell all these lies.” 

Both Republican Greg Gianforte and Democrat Rob Quist stumped in Cascade County over the last two days. The county showed last November that no political party has this county locked in for a win.

It was one of about a half dozen counties that split their ballots between Republican Donald Trump for president, and Democrat Steve Bullock for Governor. Trump won Cascade County by 20 points, Bullock by 10.

Copyright 2020 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Corin Cates-Carney is the Flathead Valley reporter for MTPR.