The Associated Press declared Kathleen Williams of Bozeman the winner of Montana’s U.S. House primary just before 4 a.m. Unofficial returns showed the former Bozeman lawmaker leading Billings attorney John Heenan by 33-to-32% in the crowded Democratic field.
Williams was able to break away from the pack despite facing two more well financed candidates – Grant Kier and John Heenan - who were able to air television ads.
"I’m thankful that it isn’t just about money in MT and that’s a lesson that we can learn nationally," Williams said early this morning.
During the campaign, the former Bozeman legislator positioned herself as someone who had experience working across the aisle to get legislation passed.
"I have brought up Jeannette Rankin, but what I’ve talked about is the most qualified candidate just happens to be a woman and that I think has resonated with people," she said. "I have never played the gender card solely."
Montanans sent Jeannette Rankin as the first woman in the U.S. elected to Congress about a century ago and there hasn’t been a woman representing the state in the House since Rankin.
Williams said if she advances from the primary, she’s looking forward meeting with voters on policy issues like health care or guns in the coming months. Williams declared she's not afraid to take on the NRA.
"I’m a sportswoman. I’m a gun owner. I’m not afraid of having a conversation about gun safety and gun policy," Williams said. "I’m not afraid of having any conversation about policy in MT and America that’s important to have."
Voters who selected the Democrat primary ballot also could select attorneys John Meyer and Jared Pettinato both of Bozeman. Former Billings lawmaker Lynda Moss’ name was on the ballot because they had already been printed when she ended her campaign.
The winner of the Democratic primary joins Libertarian Elinor Swanson, Green Party candidate Doug Campbell, and Republican incumbent Greg Gianforte on the November general election ballot. Gianforte, a high tech businessman from Bozeman, was elected last year in a special election called to fill the vacancy left when then-Congressman Ryan Zinke resigned to become U.S. Interior Secretary in the Trump Administration.