The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
David Weigel at The Post has the story:
[Montana] Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte was charged late Wednesday with misdemeanor assault after witnesses said he "body-slammed" a reporter for the Guardian who had been trying to ask him about the GOP's health-care bill.
Hours before polls close Thursday after nearly four weeks of voting in a special election to replace Ryan Zinke, who became interior secretary, three of Montana's largest newspapers rescinded their endorsements of Gianforte. His opponent, Democrat Rob Quist, declined to comment on the incident, but other Democrats called on Gianforte to quit the race.
"Following multiple interviews and an investigation by the Gallatin County Sheriff's Office it was determined there was probable cause to issue a citation," Sheriff Brian Gootkin said in a statement, adding that Gianforte would need to appear before judges by June 7.
Someone I trust in Montana, whom I asked about this, told me that this was not in keeping with Gianforte's reputation. But of course, out of character or not, I think this will be a hard one to live down.
My Montana source also reports that it is likely that about three-quarters of the votes are already in through absentee voting, so it's possible that Gianforte will still win. I expect that, even if Gianforte feels that he ought to quit (and there could be substantial political, legal and personal incentives for him to do so), he would probably wait until after the election. I assume that, once Gianforte is certified as the winner by Montana state authorities, and then quits, this would trigger a new special election, which another Republican might win (though of course the Democratic candidate, Rob Quist, might prevail even then); if Gianforte quits now, then I expect that Quist will be declared the winner. But if any of you know more about just when the result shifts from "rival wins" to "new election" (again, I assume it's when the election results are certified, but I'm not sure), please let me know.