9 June 2017 — 1749 mdt
The big story out of Montana this afternoon is that Gallatin County prosecutor Marty Lambert says that on Monday, Greg Gianforte will plead guilty to misdemeanor assault. As part of Gianforte’s “I apologize and you won’t sue” agreement with Ben Jacobs, The Guardian reporter agreed he would notify Lambert that he would not object to Gianforte’s pleading nolo contendere, which led some observers, among them myself, to infer that Gianforte would not be pleading guilty.
Politically, Gianforte’s smart if he pleads guilty instead of nolo contendere. Most voters will consider a guilty plea as a straightforward acceptance of personal responsibility, but regard a nolo contendere plea as an avoidance of full responsibility and as a rich man’s legal trick. The sentence the court hands down will be the same regardless of the plea.
Also politically, Gianforte would have been smarter not to have conditioned his apology on Jacobs’ agreeing not to sue and not to object to a nolo contendere plea. Conditioning the apology undermined its sincerity. Gianforte’s lawyers may have cut too sharp a deal for his political good.
The final test will be whether the sentence handed down gives even a faint whiff of a sweeter than usual deal for a rich man or a politician. Insofar as I know, Gianforte’s a first time offender, his altercation with Jacobs was not premediated, and his roots in his community are more than two decades deep. I would consider a suspended sentence and hands-on community service as fair to all.
Three analyses of the Democrats special congressional election campaign.
At the Missoula Independent, Michael Siebert and Alex Sakariassen, both good reporters, have a 3,000-word review of Rob Quist’s loss to Greg Gianforte. This is a traditional journalistic narrative with qualitative analysis, not a quantitative assessment of the Upshot and FiveThirtyEight genre.
At Intelligent Discontent, Missoula writer Pete Talbot explains where he agrees and disagrees with Siebert and Sakariassen.
At the Flathead Beacon, former Democratic legislator Mike Jopek observes how well Rob Quist did in some Flathead Valley precincts.
There’s a temptation to compare the special congressional election to Bullock v. Gianforte in 2016, but I think comparing it to Lewis v. Zinke in 2014, another non Presidential election, makes more sense. Quist did markedly better than Lewis, especially in Flathead, Gallatin, and Missoula Counties. I suspect this is indicative of both population growth and more sophisticated microtargeting and GOTV efforts by Democrats. I hope to publish more on this later this month.