BOZEMAN (Montana) • Republican Greg Gianforte defeated a political novice to win Montana's seat in the US House of Representatives, barely 24 hours after he was charged with assaulting a reporter who asked him about the Republican healthcare Bill.
A race that was expected to be a test of President Donald Trump's political influence, ahead of next year's US congressional elections, was jolted by the charge against Mr Gianforte, a wealthy technology executive who had urged voters to send him to Congress to help Mr Trump.
Speaking to supporters in Bozeman after his win, Mr Gianforte apologised for the incident and said he was not proud of his actions. "I should not have responded the way I did, and for that I'm sorry," he said.
He beat Democrat Rob Quist, a banjo player and first-time candidate who focused his campaign on criticism of the Republican effort to repeal and replace former president Barack Obama's healthcare law.
CNN projected Mr Gianforte would win. With 96 per cent of the vote counted, he led Mr Quist by 51 per cent to 43 per cent.
Mr Gianforte prevailed despite being charged on Wednesday night with misdemeanour assault on Mr Ben Jacobs, a political correspondent for the US edition of The Guardian newspaper, who said the candidate "body-slammed" him during a campaign event in Bozeman.
The assault occurred as Mr Jacobs tried to ask Mr Gianforte about healthcare, according to an audio tape. Fox News Channel reporter Alicia Acuna, who was preparing to interview Mr Gianforte, said the candidate "grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him to the ground".
Three state newspapers rescinded their endorsements of Mr Gianforte. Some Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, suggested he apologise.
Mr Gianforte's victory is a boost for Republicans, who are worried that Mr Trump's political stumbles and the unpopularity of the healthcare Bill passed by the House will hurt their chances of holding on to a 24-seat House majority in next year's elections.
But the relatively close margin of the race in Republican-leaning Montana was encouraging to Democrats, who are already focused on next month's hotly contested special House election in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia.