Gianforte draws on business, campaign experience ahead of special election
BOZEMAN, Mont. - For career businessman Greg Gianforte the campaign trail is unusually familiar. His failed bid for governor in November means he's been on the road for more than a year and a half. In that time he's met thousands of people and attended hundreds of events. "We're 80,000 miles in the last 18 months," Gianforte told NBC Montana during a brief stop at his home in Bozeman. "I've been to every corner of the state, and it's really been a joy." Gianforte counts that experience on the road as an asset, complementing his decades of experience in the business world as founder of Bozeman-based RightNow Technologies. "At RightNow Technologies, where we created over 500 high-wage jobs here in Bozeman, people think I mostly spent my time doing techy stuff, because we're a software company," Gianforte explained. "But the truth is we negotiated about 1,000 contracts every 90 days, and Montana won." Gianforte won too. He sold RightNow six years ago for a reported $1.5 billion. The wealth gained in that transaction has given his critics a line of attack. If Gianforte were to win they say he'd join a club of out-of-touch millionaires in Congress. Gianforte sees it differently. "Our family has prospered here in Montana, and I don't think there is anything wrong with having successful people helping to make policy so that other people can succeed. Prosperity is a good thing," he said. Nearly 60 percent of Montanans voted to elect Donald Trump to the presidency, and Gianforte aligns himself with Trump on most issues. But Gianforte says he's not afraid to challenge the president. He cites the Russia investigation as an example. "I would call on the administration to release any information they have to bring clarity to the situation because, honestly, the American people don't want to be sidetracked by this stuff. We need to get to the bottom of it," Gianforte said. One of the first issues he would deal with in Washington, D.C., is health care reform and the Trump-led effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Gianforte said he supports repeal, but only under certain conditions. "I won't vote for a repeal and a replace unless I know it protects people with pre-existing conditions, lowers rates and preserves rural access." If he's elected Gianforte says he'll commute to D.C. during the week and still spend weekends at his home in Bozeman. "I have a deep love for this state that I have chosen to make my home, raise my family in and start my business in," Gianforte said. "If I have the honor of serving this great state I just want everybody to know they'll always have my commitment. I'll always be on Montana's side."