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HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Greg Gianforte was sworn in as Montana's 25th governor Monday, becoming the state’s first Republican governor in 16 years.

Gianforte, 59, said he is committed to growing the state’s economy, lowering taxes, improving the state’s infrastructure and reining in state spending.

“For too long, state spending has grown out of control as taxpayers send more money to Helena. Its appetite has been insatiable,” he said.

While Republicans won every statewide office in the November election and increased their majority in the state legislature, Gianforte said he intends to work across the aisle.

“I firmly believe there is more that unites us than divides us,” he said. “That’s why I look forward to working with anyone – Democrat, Republican, or independent – who has a good idea.”

Democrats in response said that the state's economy remains relatively strong, and raised concerns over avoidable budget cuts.

“Making reckless and unnecessary cuts now will slow our economic recovery, eliminate jobs, and reduce access to essential services," said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jill Cohenour.

Gianforte is a self-made technology mogul whose political career included a stinging defeat for governor in 2016 and unwanted notoriety when he assaulted a reporter a day before a special election he won to earn a seat in the U.S. House in 2017. He was re-elected to the U.S. House in 2018.

Kristen Juras was sworn in as lieutenant governor.

Attendance at the inauguration was limited to 25 people and attendees wore masks, except when speaking, to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Gianforte has previously indicated he may lift a statewide mask mandate put in place by his Democratic predecessor, Steve Bullock, and instead rely on personal responsibility to follow public health guidance.

“I am confident, with vaccines and increased testing, we will get a better handle on our response to COVID-19,” he said.

Newly elected officials took the helm of other statewide offices on Monday. Austin Knudsen was sworn in as the state's attorney general; Christi Jacobsen was sworn in as the state's new secretary of state; and Troy Downing was sworn in as the new state auditor. Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen was sworn in for her second term in the office. All are Republicans.

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Samuels is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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