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PNS Daily Newscast - November 23, 2017 


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Special Election to Fill Rep. Zinke's Seat Costliest in MT History

Montanans will go to the polls in a special election on Thursday to fill the congressional seat vacated when Rep. Ryan Zinke became U.S. Interior Secretary. (Justin Sullivan/GettyImages)
Montanans will go to the polls in a special election on Thursday to fill the congressional seat vacated when Rep. Ryan Zinke became U.S. Interior Secretary. (Justin Sullivan/GettyImages)
May 22, 2017

HELENA, Mont. — Former House Rep. Ryan Zinke's leap to the role of U.S. Interior Secretary left behind a contested seat in Congress, and the race for that seat has become the costliest for a House seat in Montana's history.

Federal campaign reports show more than $12 million has poured in to the special election for the two most popular candidates: Republican Greg Gianforte and Democrat Rob Quist. Jeremy Johnson, associate professor of political science at Carroll College in Helena, said more than 200,000 absentee ballots have already been submitted ahead of Thursday’s election, despite a slew of attack ads from both sides.

"One reason that campaigns go negative is to try to convince other voters not to necessarily vote for you, but just have those voters stay home who might vote for your opponent,” Johnson said. "So, that's sort of something that could be a vote suppressant. But I think in this case, we actually see a large amount of voting."

Out-of-state political groups have spent $5 million to help fund the negative ads reaching across the state. About 2 percent of Gianforte's money has come from Republican Party groups and political action committees, or PACs. Quist has vowed not to take any money from corporate PACs, but has received money from the Democratic Party groups.

Each candidate has raised about $3 million.

Gianforte pumped $1 million of his own money into his campaign, with most of the rest coming from individual donors. And 98 percent of Quist's campaign money is from individual donations of $200 or less.

Because donors of smaller amounts don't have to be identified, Gianforte's campaign has accused Quist of getting money from people outside Montana. Johnson said the rest of the country is interested in this election as a potential bellwether for the 2018 midterms.

"Elections like Montana might give us a hint,” Johnson said. "So, I think there's a lot of incentive for people across the nation to put money into this race to try to hopefully have for each, you know, respective side the outcome that they hope for."

Montanans can register to vote up until polls close at 8 p.m. on Thursday, but they have to do so in person at their local county election office. A list of polling places and hours is available on the Montana Secretary of State's website.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT