"Not quirky personalities." Quist is a folk musician and first-time candidate.
On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan urged Gianforte to apologize for the incident.
Gianforte issued a public apology Friday for assaulting the reporter and told his crowd of supporters that he made a mistake by striking the journalist. "Yeah, I think he should apologize", Ryan said.More news: Ferrari shows the pace at Monaco GP as Mercedes struggles
But the close margin of the race in Republican-leaning Montana will be encouraging to Democrats, who feel they have a better chance in next month's hotly contested special House election in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia.
The Montana race focused on Quist's history of financial problems and Gianforte's stance on House Republicans' effort to dismantle Obamacare.
This special election to elect a replacement for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke as Montana's lone member of the House of Representatives suddenly got a lot more exciting when Gianforte bodyslammed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs on Wednesday night.
Three Montana newspapers who had previously endorsed the candidate withdrew their endorsement on Wednesday night, but President Donald Trump, who had endorsed Gianforte via a robocall, did not have a comment Thursday on the alleged assault.
Initially, following the altercation, Gianforte's campaign had blamed Jacobs for the violent incident.More news: Park, prosecutors face rising stakes in corruption trial
Gootkin didn't address the discrepancy between Gianforte's campaign's account of the incident Wednesday night, and the audio and witness account from Fox News reporters, according to Bozeman Daily Chronicle reporter Whitney Bermes. Acuna, her field producer and photographer then "watched in disbelief as Gianforte began punching (Jacobs) as he moved to on top of the reporter", she wrote.
Shaun Scott, a computer science professor at Carroll College in Helena, voted for Gianforte despite the assault charge, saying it was barely a factor in his decision. The chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Steve Stivers, said in a statement that "this was totally out of character, but we all make mistakes".
Gianforte, who will defend the seat during next year's mid-term elections, sounded contrite.
"We are also sick and exhausted - of Gianforte's incessant attacks on the free press", the Helena Independent Record wrote. He echoed the Republican Party mantras of cutting taxes, beefing up the military and securing the country's borders.More news: Was Montana's wild House race a Trump test? Not so much
- Trump Went Off-Script In His Speech About Terrorism
- Death row inmate: Execution drugs won't work
- Manchester Arena blast: police officer among those killed by Salman Abedi
- Nadal reveals injury scare ahead of French Open
- Trump's budget plan hits poor people hard
- Cavs Beat Celtics As LeBron James Tops NBA's All-Time Playoff Scoring List
- US Singer Ariana Grande suspends tour following Manchester terror attack
- OnePlus 3T binned as firm makes room for the OnePlus 5
- Ducks top goal-scorer Rickard Rakell misses Gm 5 with injury
- Rooney 'more or less' decided on Man United future