The day before the special election to fill Montana’s single House seat, Republican candidate Greg Gianforte allegedly assaulted and “body slammed” Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs for asking him a question about the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the Republican American Health Care Act. Audio of the incident quickly went viral. A Fox News camera crew corroborated Jacobs’ account of the altercation, which greatly differed from the description in the statement issued by Gianforte’s campaign. Gianforte eventually was charged with assault just hours before the polls opened.
Gianforte, who is running against Democrat Rob Quist to fill the House seat vacated by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, is no stranger to Montanians, having lost last year’s gubernatorial race to Democrat Steve Bullock.
To understand who Greg Gianforte is, and how the bizarre incident could impact Thursday’s election, International Business Time’s David Sirota talked to Eric Stern, a longtime Montana political strategist and adviser to both Bullock and Montana’s previous governor, Democrat Brian Schwietzer. Stern also has served as a political columnist for Salon.com. Audio of the conversation is available below.
What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the conversation.
Sirota: You live in Montana, you live in Helena, for people who don’t know, who is Greg Gianforte?
Stern: Greg Gianforte is a person who came to Montana in the early ’90s from the East Coast and he started a software company, which he sold in 2011 to the Oracle Corp. for almost $3 billion. So on that side, he is a Silicon Valley type. Massively successful. He probably walked away with close to $1 billion for himself. But he’s also a very religious man. He’s an ultra-religious Christian. He builds religious schools. He and his wife have fought very hard against nondiscrimination ordinances designed to protect gay and lesbian people in Montana towns and cities. They have opposed those types of things on…