While Montana went for President Donald Trump by 20 points last November, the recent controversies swirling around the Trump administration and the House's passage of the unpopular American Health Care Act provided glimpses of hope for Quist.
Trump did not say anything further and did not address questions about the fact that Gianforte is now facing misdemeanor charges after assaulting a reporter on Wednesday. "And I took an action that I can't take back", he said. "For that, I'm sorry".
The news comes a little more than 24 hours after the former failed gubernatorial candidate allegedly assaulted a reporter for the Gaurdian by bodyslamming him in front of witnesses while being recorded by audiotape.More news: Sony selects director for 'Spider-Man' spinoff 'Silver Sable and Black Cat'
Libertarian Mark Wicks was the third candidate in the race. "Ben Jacobs", Gianforte said, referring to The Guardian reporter who said Gianforte "body-slammed" him during a campaign event the day before. A reporter from the Guardian accused the tech millionaire of slamming him to the ground and breaking his glasses in an altercation Wednesday afternoon at Gianforte's campaign headquarters in Bozeman.
At his election night rally in Bozeman on Thursday, Gianforte apologized for his behavior. With 96 percent of the vote counted, he led Quist by 51 percent to 43 percent.
In conceding Thursday night, Quist told supporters he called Gianforte and stressed the need to listen to all Montanans. The contest for Montana's sole U.S. House seat began after Republican Ryan Zinke resigned in March when he became U.S. Interior Secretary. Some Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, suggested he apologize.
Montana Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) tweeted, "Greg Gianforte needs to apologize", on Thursday.
Rural Montana is a reliably Republican state, having voted for the GOP in every election bar two since 1952.More news: LeBron James tops Michael Jordan as all-time playoffs scoring leader
Gianforte canceled planned interviews, and the campaign has not commented on the altercation with a reporter Wednesday.
After Gianforte told Jacobs to ask his spokesman, there's sound of a scuffle and Gianforte shouting.
By the time sheriff's deputies arrived, more than half of voters had already cast their ballots in the race due to the state's mail-in voting law.
"As the president talks about that and Greg Gianforte said that it's good the House bill is moving forward - that has real effect", Bullock said.
Shaun Scott, a computer science professor at Carroll College in Helena, said the assault charge was barely a factor in his decision.More news: Bangladesh pull off historic win over Black Caps