Kathleen Williams has won the Democratic primary in the race for Montana's U.S. House seat.
The 57-year-old Williams defeated four other candidates in Tuesday's election and will face the Republican incumbent, U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, in the fall.
Williams is a former state lawmaker who wasn't among the top candidates when it came to fundraising, but she noted that it has been a strong year for women running for office.
If she's victorious in November, she would become Montana's first congresswoman since Jeannette Rankin won the seat in 1941.
Williams calls herself a progressive who also has ties to the business community and the agriculture industry. Her campaign has focused on improving health care and increasing gun restrictions after recent school shootings.
She narrowly edged out Billings attorney John Heenan to get the party's nomination. Williams got 37,144 votes to Heenan's 35,154. The race did not get called by The Associated Press until nearly 4 a.m., Wednesday.
Late Tuesday night in another closely watched and tight race, Republican State Auditor Matt Rosendale beat former Yellowstone County Judge and legislator Russ Fagg to face off against sitting U.S. Sen. Jon Tester in what Rosendale quickly became known as "The Battle of the Flat-tops," referring to both man's hair style. Williams against Gianforte will be a clash of Gallatin County residents for Montana's lone congressional seat.
"We are confident, and I think Montanans are voting for experience, and they're voting for a candidate that they believe will serve them all," Williams said. "And someone who knows the state and has traveled throughout it, is willing to talk to everyone in Montana, and serve everyone in Montana."
Throughout the campaign, Williams had financially trailed her two closest challengers, Heenan and Missoula's Grant Kier, by hundreds of thousands of dollars. She tapped into a national movement to get female candidates elected to Congress. Later she sided with school children and adults calling for an end to gun violence.
Williams tapped into two movements of the Trump era, the first being the national drive to elect women to Congress. The second movement was the call for an end to gun violence. The former state legislator made a name for herself by calling for tight restrictions on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines. She supported universal background checks, as well. After 17 students were gunned down at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Williams vowed to stand firm on gun control, even if her position meant getting low letter grade from the National Rifle Association, something Montana politicians usually avoid. Let the “F” from the NRA stand for fearless, said Williams, a gun owner and hunter.
"My bright line is stopping the massacres, and if you look at what is common in all of the last six massacres, it's the weapon," William told Lee Montana in April. "My husband and I, we never felt the need to own an AR-15. I called my sportsman friends who are endorsing this campaign because I didn't want to surprise them. I talked it through with them and they said the same thing."
Health care reform and lowering the price of prescription drugs were big issues for Williams in the primary.
With six names on the Democrats side for the nomination, Kier garnered 26,834 votes; while Lynda Moss of Billings, who dropped out of the race in April, took 5,592 votes; John Meyer had 3,684 and Jared Pettinato took 2,440 votes.