Originally published in the Yellowstone County News Print Edition.
HUNTLEY — Donald J. Trump easily won Montana’s three Electoral College votes on his way to the national presidential win.
National Republican Party officials said their candidate succeeded because he appealed to rural voters and the Silent Majority, who turned out in massive numbers to vote for the political outsider.
The Republican ticket of Trump and running mate Mike Pence won 260,460 votes in the Big Sky State, with Democrats Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine totaling 160,838 votes with about 80 percent of Montana votes counted by Wednesday morning.
In remarks on Wednesday, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus congratulated President-elect Trump.
Priebus said Americans wanted a “bold new direction” and that Trump’s victory showed Americans wanted to “take the country back into their own hands.”
Republicans also won control of both House and Senate seats. Democrats were in control of the U.S. Congress when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.
“Donald Trump’s candidacy inspired millions of Americans to join his quest to give a voice to those who have long felt silenced,” Priebus said.
U.S. Sen. Steve Daines said, “Congratulations to President-elect Donald Trump on winning Montana and the presidency. Now the hard work really begins as we bring our nation together and move our country forward for hardworking families.”
Incumbent Gov. Steve Bullock fended off a challenge by Greg Gianforte, a Bozeman Republican, in a race that went into Wednesday as vote counting continued. On Wednesday morning, Gianforte conceded the race to Bullock.
In unofficial results from Yellowstone County, Gianforte narrowly edged Bullock with 32,692 votes to Bullocks 32,194 votes.
“I’d like to congratulate Gov. Bullock,” Gianforte said Wednesday morning. “While this is an incredibly close race, the voters of Montana appear to have spoken.”
Gianforte thanked his campaign volunteers and supporters and congratulated Republican candidates Tim Fox, Corey Stapleton, Matt Rosendale, and Elsie Arntzen.
“I knew taking on an incumbent would be a challenge,”Gianforte said, “but I decided to run for office because I believe in the potential of Montana and in all Montanans. Nothing has changed that for me. Even though we did not prevail, you have my commitment that I will continue to work to create better outcomes for all Montanans.” Keenan said Montana voters made the right choice in the governor’s race.
“Gov. Steve Bullock’s leadership will be important for all Montanans over the next four years,” Keenan said. She also saluted other Democratic statewide candidates.
“Montanans owe a debt of gratitude to the Democratic candidates who have led this state and stepped up to the plate to run for statewide office,” including Juneau, Monica Lindeen, Jesse Laslovich, Melissa Romano and Larry Jent.
“Although disappointed with the outcomes of last night’s results, Keenan said, “we will roll up our sleeves and get back to fighting for the values we hold dear: respect, equality and inclusion.”
Republican Ryan Zinke won re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives for a second term. Zinke defeated Democratic challenger Denise Juneau, former Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction. Zinke garnered 40,476 votes in Yellowstone County, with Juneau receiving 24,586 votes Libertarian Rick Breckenridge received 1,984 votes. He has served two years in the House after replacing Rep. Steve Daines, who moved to the U.S. Senate.
“I’m humbled by the continued support of the people of Montana,” said Ryan Zinke. “This election year was particularly negative on a national scale. Neighbors pitted against each other, lifelong friends no longer speak to one another. Rather than remember what we have in common, we are focusing on what divides us. It’s time for a change. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, it’s an American issue.”
“I spent the past two years working hard in the House,” Zinke said, “to advance important legislation to rebuild our infrastructure, conserve our public land, deliver tax cuts for families, tribes and small businesses, and get our economy going again. But there’s still more work to be done. I look forward to working with our new president and new members of Congress to make a brighter future for our children and grandchildren.”
Nancy Keenan, chairwoman of the Montana Democrats, said that although Juneau “came up short, we should never discount the historic nature of her campaign. Denise has been a trailblazer from the beginning: From Head Start to Harvard; from Browning to the first Native American to hold statewide office, Denise has shattered glass ceilings and serves as a shining example of the indomitable Montana spirit.”