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Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte may run for governor, opening up at-large House seat

Republicans haven’t won governor’s mansion since 2000

Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., might join a crowded Republican race for Montana governor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., might join a crowded Republican race for Montana governor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte, Montana’s lone House member, is planning to announce a 2020 run for governor, according to the state’s MTN News network.

Gianforte, who was first elected to the House in a 2017 special election, would be the sixth Republican to enter the race to succeed Democratic incumbent Steve Bullock, who is term-limited and running for president.

Republicans last captured the Montana governor’s mansion in 2000. No Democrats have announced campaigns for governor so far.

Publicly, Gianforte is keeping any gubernatorial plans close to his chest.

“Greg has received a lot of encouragement from Montanans about running for Governor,” a spokesman for the congressman said in a statement. “Greg’s considering how best he can use his executive experience and background in creating high-wage Montana jobs to best serve Montana, and he will announce his decision in the coming weeks.”

Gianforte was the losing GOP nominee for governor in 2016, losing to Bullock by 4 points. He ran for the state’s at-large House seat the following year after Rep. Ryan Zinke resigned to become Interior secretary. 

Gianforte made headlines during that race after he physically assaulted a reporter a day before the special election. He went on to defeat Democrat Rob Quist by 6 points and later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault. He won a full term last fall, defeating former Democratic state Rep. Kathleen Williams by 5 points. 

Other Republicans in the race for governor include state Attorney General Tim Fox, Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, state Sen. Al Olszewski and former state Sen. Gary Perry. A Gianforte entry would open up his House seat. State Auditor Matt Rosendale, who lost a close race for Senate last year, would be a favorite among Republicans for the at-large seat, according to a February poll from the conservative Club for Growth.

While Democrats have had success in federal and state offices in Montana in recent years, they haven’t won the House seat since 1994. 

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales current rates the Montana at-large race Solid Republican, though that calculus could change without Gianforte running. 

No matter what Gianforte decides, Williams already said in March that she will run for the House seat again in 2020.

President Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 21 points in Montana in 2016. The latest Morning Consult tracking survey from April put his state approval rating at50 percent approving to 47 percent disapproving. 

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