Democratic House primary: Williams pulls out win over Heenan

After a nail-biter night, Kathleen Williams took the victory in the Democratic race for U.S. House.

With all precincts counted early Wednesday morning, former state legislator Kathleen Williams claimed the win in Montana’s Democratic primary and the right to challenge incumbent Rep. Greg Gianforte in November.

Final unofficial numbers showed Williams with 37,144 votes to 35,154 for Billings attorney John Heenan.

Hers was the tightest statewide race of the 2018 primary, with a few as 100 votes separating Williams from Billings attorney John Heenan at several points. Neither Heenan nor Williams issued statements Tuesday night, as the race was too close to call until the last counties reported their totals to the Secretary of State.

Williams is vying to become the second Montana woman to take the state’s only seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The first, Missoula peace activist Jeannette Rankin was elected in 1917. But first, she had to overcome a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

She was the only Democratic front-runner who had been elected to office.

“Of the three (Democratic front-runners), I’m the only one who has been elected,” Williams said earlier this year, noting her three terms in the state Legislature. “I’m really tired of this seat being filled by someone that doesn’t really represent Montana, and I wasn’t convinced we had someone that could win in a state that went 20 points for (President Donald) Trump. It’s going to be a unique Democrat that can take on Gianforte and be successful.”

During her time in the Legislature, Williams served as vice chair of the Agriculture and Taxation committees, and on the Governor’s Drought Committee and the Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission.

Here is a look at vote totals in the statewide voting for major party candidates for the state’s sole seat in the U.S. House and one of Montana’s U.S. Senate seats.

With 669 of 669 precincts reporting:

U.S. Senate


Jon Tester: 113,815


Troy Downing: 29,151

Russ Fagg: 43,225

Al Olszewski: 28,557

Matt Rosendale: 51,546

Green Party

Timothy Adams: 619

Steve Kelly: 995

U.S. House


Greg Gianforte: 135,515


John Heenan: 35,154

Grant Kier: 26,834

Kathleen Williams: 37,144

John Meyer: 3,684

Lynda Moss: 5,592

Jared Pettinato: 2,440

Watch Missoula Current for updates as they are available.