Gianforte comes to Polson
POLSON — Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte rallied GOP faithful last Thursday at the Red Lion Inn & Suites and targeted his Democrat opponent, Rob Quist.
Gianforte and Quist are squaring off to replace former U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke on May 25. Also running is Libertarian Mark Wicks.
Gianforte said he’s an electrical engineer by trade, and noted that he and his wife moved to Montana 24 years ago, started a technology company with $5,000 and later sold it to Oracle in 2012. By that time, his business had 1,100 employees including 550 in Bozeman with an average annual salary of $90,000, he said.
“High tech is a $1 billion industry in Montana now,” Gianforte said.
Gianforte said he’s sure Quist is a pretty good musician, but added that as an electrical engineer, he’s trained to solve hard problems.
Gianforte favors “draining the swamp” in Washington, D.C. and called for term limits. He also believes in a balanced budget and said Congressmen shouldn’t get paid if the budget isn’t balanced.
“The No. 1 concern in Montana is federal overreach,” he said. “We have an opportunity in Washington, D.C. that Republicans haven’t had in a long time.”
“Does the Trump train pick up speed or does it slow down?” he asked, noting Montanans’ choice.
He criticized Quist for calling for a gun registry and for wanting to make Montana a “sanctuary state” for illegal immigrants.
“My opponent has called for massive cuts in military spending,” Gianforte said.
When asked after the meeting to compare Quist to Gov. Steve Bullock, who Gianforte lost to last November, he declined but referred to Quist as “Nancy Pelosi in a cowboy hat.”
Quist spokeswoman Tina Olechowski responded to Gianforte’s charges via email on Friday.
“As usual, failed candidate for governor and New Jersey multi-millionaire, Greg Gianforte is spreading falsehoods about Rob Quist. There is only one real Montanan in this race who is fighting for working families and talking to Montanans across the state,” Olechowski said. “Gianforte knows Rob has the people behind him which is why he is resorting to false New Jersey-style attacks. It didn’t work last November and it won’t work this time.”
Gianforte was the only Republican to lose a statewide race in Montana last year, but said he faced an uphill battle. A GOP challenger had not defeated a Democrat incumbent for governor in 65 years, he said.
“It was a very steep hill, and we almost prevailed,” he said.
A woman in the audience thanked the Gianforte Family Foundation for providing a $50,000 grant for a local drug court coordinator. Gianforte said he supports drug courts, adding that he conferred with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, and said drug courts brought incarcerations down in that state by almost 30 percent.
When asked if he would join the Freedom Caucus, whose Republican members recently joined with some from the moderate Tuesday Group to block an Obamacare replacement bill, Gianforte said he probably won’t join the ultra-conservative group “although I agree with them on a lot of issues.”
Gianforte said Republicans were trying to repeal Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act, by the seven-year anniversary of its approval by Congress, but “they pulled the cake out of the oven before it was done. If they had spent a couple more weeks, they probably could’ve gotten a good bill.”
When asked if he supports Zinke’s stoppage of the transfer of the National Bison Range in Moiese to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Gianforte said he hadn’t studied the issue enough to have an opinion.
Gianforte said he’s ahead by 10-12 points in the polls, and noted that Donald Trump Jr. is coming to Kalispell on April 21. Gianforte encouraged those who want to attend the event, which will take place at Eagle Air, 4426 U.S. 2 East, near Glacier Park International Airport, to register at trumpinmontana.com.
Quist, meanwhile, made a couple of visits to Lake County prior to wrapping up the Democrat nomination at a March 5 convention in Helena where he defeated seven other candidates. He also appeared at Salish Kootenai College on April 8.
The Cut Bank native, who founded the Mission Mountain Wood Band, lives in Creston. His website is robquist.org.