GOP distances itself from Montana candidate after alleged ‘body-slam’

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Republican candidate for Montana's only U.S. House seat, Greg Gianforte, sits in a vehicle on May 24, 2017, in Bozeman, Mont. A reporter said Gianforte "body-slammed" him Wednesday, the day before the special election. (Freddy Monares/Bozeman Daily Chronicle via AP)

MISSOULA, Mont. – Georgia Republicans are putting as much distance as possible between themselves and Greg Gianforte, the GOP candidate for Congress here who allegedly assaulted a reporter less than 24 hours before voters hit the polls.

No one from Georgia dared defend the candidate, a wealthy former technology executive, in the hours after he allegedly ‘body-slammed’ the Guardian’s Ben Jacobs ahead of a campaign stop in Bozeman for asking questions about the GOP health care bill. The Gianforte campaign shared its own, very different version of events in a statement Wednesday.

The incident has the potential to shake up a nationally-watched congressional race that had not long ago been seen as a safe bet for the party.

As Republicans in Georgia and across the country side-stepped the situation, Democrats stepped up their calls for Gianforte to step aside.

One of the only Georgia voices to weigh in was state Rep. Scott Holcomb. In a series of tweets, the Atlanta Democrat indicated Gianforte did not have the character to be in Congress and also pinned some of the blame on President Donald Trump for vilifying reporters:

It’s unclear whether Wednesday’s skirmish will impact the outcome of tomorrow’s race. News of it began spreading only after the evening

commute, and many voters have already casts their ballots early by mail. Gianforte cancelled a Wednesday campaign event with supporters, and his Democratic opponent Rob Quist refused to answer reporters’ questions about the incident during an appearance at a Missoula brewery Wednesday night.

The skirmish offers a stark contrast from just a few hours earlier, when your Insider attended a campaign appearance in Helena with both Gianforte and Jacobs. The event was an uneventful one. Gianforte gave a short speech before a couple dozen supporters at the local GOP headquarters and largely avoided but was cordial to the handful of reporters in attendance.

Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte speaks to supporters in Helena, Mont., on May 24. Tamar Hallerman/AJC

We’ll see what, if anything, changes tomorrow.

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