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Gianforte, Cooney to face off in November for MT governor

Posted at 5:16 PM, Jun 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-03 00:32:30-04

Update 9:41 p.m. The Associated Press has called the Democratic primary for Mike Cooney.

Cooney, who was Gov. Steve Bullock's running mate four years ago against Gianforte, gave a statement to MTN News on the November contest:

“We ran against Mr. Gianforte in 2016. We know what he’s going to do. He’s going to try to buy this thing and I don’t think Montanans are going to put up with that. I think they want to keep control of their elections. They want somebody with the leadership and experience, who can hit the ground running from day one, and that’s exactly what we’re prepared to do.”

Gianforte released this statement Tuesday night:

“I’m grateful for the overwhelming support we received throughout this campaign from every corner of our state. I want to thank my friends, Tim and Al, who ran spirited campaigns. I appreciate their commitment to public service, and I look forward to working with them to build the kind of Republican unity we need to win in November,” Gianforte said.

“As we face these challenging times, I hear from Montanans over and over again that we need a new course, that we need a proven business leader in the governor’s office – one who’s created high-paying jobs here in Montana and one who understands our Montana way of life. I’ve spent my life creating jobs, solving problems, and serving others. It’s what I know how to do, and it’s what I want to do for Montana as your next governor. On day one, I’ll roll up my sleeves and start working so we can get our economy going again, get Montana open for business, and get Montanans back to work in good-paying jobs. I look forward to a campaign of ideas and to continuing to focus on our positive, hopeful vision for our state. I know our best days are ahead of us,” Gianforte said.

Check the most up-to-date results here.

Update 9:03 p.m. The Associated Press has declared Greg Gianforte winner of the Republican primary for governor with 52 percent.

Lt. Mike Cooney continues to lead the Democratic primary.

Fox spoke to MTN News shortly before the race was called.

“Given these tough times that we’re seeing with the COVID-19 crisis, and the problems that we’ll probably have with our economy and revenue shortfalls and those things, the Republican ticket has the best answers for the future of Montana. We’ll find out tomorrow probably where we’re headed with all of this, and we’ll look forward to working with whoever to solve as many problems as we can,” he said.

Check the most up-to-date results here.

Update 8:51 p.m. Early returns show U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte out to a big lead on the Republican side, while Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney started ahead of challenger Whitney Williams.

Gianforte had 50 percent of the vote with about 1 percent of precincts reporting, equaling the total of his two challengers, Tim Fox and Al Olszewski.

Cooney started with a 55 percent to 45 percent lead over Williams in early returns.

Cooney told MTN News that he's not jumping to any conclusions.

"I’m very confident I think we’ve run a great campaign. We’ve tried to talk about Montana values throughout this campaign. We’ve tried to make sure we’ve run a very positive campaign, and I think that’s what Montanans expect. That’s what I feel Montanans deserve," he said.

Check the results here.

HELENA – Montana voters are choosing the Republican and Democratic nominees for governor in Tuesday’s primary election, setting up a fall showdown for an open seat.

U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, Attorney General Tim Fox and state Sen. Al Olszewski are competing for the Republican nomination, while Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney and Missoula businesswoman Whitney Williams are squaring off for the Democratic nod.

Libertarian Lyman Bishop of Kalispell and Green Party candidate Robert Barb of Billings also will be on the ballot this fall.

Republicans are trying to capture the governor’s office for the first time in 16 years, while Democrats hope to extend their hold on a seat they’ve held since 2005.

The seat is open because Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock is barred by term limits from running for a third consecutive term.

Gianforte, a wealthy businessman and philanthropist from Bozeman, spent $1.5 million of his own money on his campaign, through mid-May, and raised a total of $3.6 million – almost five times as much as his nearest Republican competitor and well past either Democratic candidate.

When asked about his substantial investment in the campaign, Gianforte told MTN News last month he was “all in for Montana.”

Fox, an early entry into the race in 2019, is coming off eight years as attorney general. The Hardin native was first elected to that seat in 2012 and re-elected in 2016, and could not run for re-election because of term limits.

Olszewski, an orthopedic surgeon and state senator from Kalispell since 2017, has advertised himself as the only military veteran in the race. He also ran for U.S. Senate in 2018, coming in fourth in a four-way primary.

Cooney, appointed by Bullock as lieutenant governor in early 2016, has been Montana’s secretary of state and a state senator from Helena. Originally from Butte, Cooney also has worked as an aide to former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus and an administrator in state government.

Williams, a first-time candidate, runs a business that designs and manages philanthropic work for corporations and individuals. She is the daughter for former U.S. Rep. Pat Williams and former state Sen. Carol Williams.