Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte and Democrat Mike Cooney will face off in the Nov. 3 election for Montana governor after prevailing over their opponents Tuesday in a mail-in primary that saw huge voter participation.
Gianforte, 59, touted his business experience and conservative views as he capitalized on a huge financial advantage to soundly defeat Attorney General Tim Fox. State Sen. Al Olszewski trailed in the GOP race.
Cooney, 65, fended off a strong challenge from Missoula businesswoman Whitney Williams, whose political connections boosted her campaign but proved not enough. Cooney has pledged to carry forward many of the policies of incumbent Gov. Steve Bullock, who defeated Gianforte four years ago but is prevented by term limits from seeking to keep the seat.
Republicans are seeking to end 16 years of Democratic domination of the governor’s office and the nominees will offer voters a clear contrast. Cooney has spent his career in state politics, including three terms as secretary of state, while Gianforte entered politics late after building a fortune from developing a start-up technology company that was sold to Oracle in 2011.
Gianforte points to his track record creating private-sector jobs. As a lawmaker, he has urged getting government out of the way of industry.
“From my perspective, people want business experience in the governor's office and there's an awful lot of folks hurting right now with unemployment where it is, with the economic and public health crisis," he told AP. “I'm ready to roll up my sleeves on day one and get the economy working again."
RGA Chairman and Texas Governor Greg Abbott released the following statement after Gianforte's win:
“The RGA congratulates our Republican nominee Greg Gianforte on his primary victory. Greg has spent his entire career creating jobs, raising his family, and enriching his community in the state he loves, and he is the right choice to lead Montana forward toward greater prosperity and security.
“As Montana faces the challenges ahead, Greg has a proven track record of growing the economy and a vision to create better-paying jobs and expanded opportunities for all Montanans. The RGA looks forward to electing Greg Gianforte as Montana’s next governor in November.”