Democrat Conor Lamb, a 33-year-old former federal prosecutor who served as a lawyer in the Marine Corps and a moderate Democrat, is poised to win the special election In Pennsivania’s 18th congressional district, a solid Republican district that Democrats did not even challenge in 2014 and 2016, and that Donald Trump carried by 20 points.
Republicans spent almost 11 million dollars trying to defend this seat, and sent the President, Vice President, and Donny Jr. to campaign for Rick Sacone.
Conor Lamb leads by 579 votes this morning, with only a handful of absentee ballots yet to be counted from sparsely populated Greene County (only 4,663 ballots cast, which Rick Scaccone carried 57-41%).
Last Updated Time: Mar 14, 2018 7:32:52 AM
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette reports Too close to call: More absentee ballots being counted for Lamb, Saccone in District 18 special election:
They said it was going to be close, and it was. The race between Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb for the 18th District was in a near tie Tuesday night, but with absentee ballots still out Mr. Lamb told his supporters, “We did it.”
Mr. Saccone, of Elizabeth Township, and Mr. Lamb, of Mt. Lebanon, had a hard-fought special election campaign flooded with money and national attention.
With 100 percent of the vote count in, Mr. Lamb was ahead by more than 600 votes. However, absentee and provisional ballots were still being counted overnight. Washington County finished tallying early Wednesday morning, showing Lamb with 609 votes and Saccone, 547.
Greene County absentee votes were still out.
Around 12:40 a.m., Mr. Lamb took the stage at the Hilton Inn at Southpointe. He was introduced as “Congressman-elect Conor Lamb.” He declared: “It took a little longer than we thought, but we did it. You did it!” He spoke for several minutes about the campaign, thanking those who had worked for him, and said, “”We followed what I learned in the Marines: Leave no one behind. We went everywhere, we talked to everyone, we invited everyone in.”
News outlets did not call the election, saying it was too close.
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If the race is still too close to call after the absentee ballots are counted, voters or candidates could call for a recount or recanvass of votes, but the process is onerous. Voters have until officials are done with the computation of the votes on Friday to file a challenge with their county Board of Elections. The computation includes the counting of absentee ballots.
Voters can also seek relief from a county Common Pleas Court. In such cases, three voters in the same precinct must provide evidence of fraud or error in the vote counting and pay a $50 fee. If they don’t present evidence of fraud or error, they must “file qualified petitions in every single precinct in which ballots were cast for the office in question,” according to state officials. Those petitions have to be filed within five days of computation of the votes.
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Democrats [can] say that Mr. Lamb has shown that candidates can be competitive in districts won by Mr. Trump. Terry Madonna, a veteran pollster at Franklin & Marshall College, said, “Moving forward, that tells Democrats that in districts Trump won by 8, 10, 12 even 20 points not to nationalize the race.”
Note: There are more than 100 GOP congressional seats won by a lesser margin than the 20% by which Trump carried the PA 18th.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald praised the candidate. “Conor is a great candidate and he ran a great campaign. … I’ve never seen a campaign with so much grassroots enthusiasm.”
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The “r” shaped 18th District is anchored in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, just under the city of Pittsburgh, hugging the West Virginia panhandles. It is made up of a diversity of suburbs — ranging from wealthy to rural — in portions of Allegheny, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties and has a population of just over 700,000, according to the latest census data.
More than 93 percent of those in District 18 are white and the average age is over 44, making it the second-oldest electorate in the state.
The district was safely Republican in each of the past three congressional elections, so much so that Republican Tim Murphy ran unopposed in 2014 (when he got 166,076 votes) and 2016 (293,684). In 2012 he defeated Democrat Larry Maggi, who mustered only 36 percent of the vote, losing 216,727 to 122,146 votes.
The seat had been held, securely, by Mr. Murphy since 2003. Mr. Murphy was adept at straddling the district’s patchwork political geography, which joined union households with rural communities and college-educated suburbs. But Post-Gazette reporting of an extramarital affair, and subsequent allegations that Mr. Murphy mistreated Congressional staff, forced his resignation last fall.
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[A]lthough his name surfaced late, it was distinctly familiar for many Democrats. Mr. Lamb’s grandfather, Thomas Lamb, was a Democratic leader in the state Senate, and his uncle Michael Lamb is the city controller for Pittsburgh. Conor Lamb beat six other Democrats, including some who’d been in the race for months, during a mid-November vote by the party’s committee members.
Throughout the campaign, Mr. Lamb played his cards close to his vest, divulging his opinions on issues like abortion on his own timetable, rather than that of the reporters covering the race. While his campaign drew on the energy of progressives animated by anger over Mr. Trump’s election, Mr. Lamb himself campaigned as a moderate, rarely challenging the president directly even while faulting leadership in Congress.
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As a candidate, Mr. Lamb had raised $3.9 million — four times Mr. Saccone’s total — by mid-February. Mr. Saccone, however, was bolstered by outside spending made by national Republican groups that by Election Day had spent over $10 million on his behalf. Most of that was spent by just two groups: the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund.
That assured Mr. Saccone an edge in airtime, which Republicans used to insist Mr. Lamb would be too closely in the fold of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi — though Mr. Lamb said he wanted new party leadership.
Despite his youth, Mr. Lamb ran a campaign that made use of old-school tactics, paying close attention to the deployment of yard signs and retail-level politics. Other than a highly touted campaign visit by former Vice President Joe Biden, who is popular with union voters, Mr. Lamb sought out little national Democratic support.
Mr. Saccone, meanwhile, made ample use of his access to national resources. He appeared with Donald Trump twice — the second time at a rally three days before the election — with Vice President Mike Pence, and with Mr. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka.
The difference in focus lasted right up until the eve of the election: Mr. Saccone spent the last day of the campaign with Donald Trump Jr., touring a chocolate facility while the national media squeezed between racks of chocolate bunnies for a camera angle. Mr. Lamb, meanwhile, eschewed the media, reaching out to voters that campaign workers identified as still on the fence.
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[T]he 18th District itself is likely to disappear in its current form. Under a new district map mandated by the state Supreme Court, Mr. Lamb will be moved into the 17th District, which overlaps territory currently held by U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus. Mr. Saccone, meanwhile, will be drawn into a district that includes Pittsburgh, which is currently represented by Democrat Mike Doyle.
But Tuesday’s outcome may well reshape the political landscape far beyond those borders.
“The real impact of this race has to do more with the symbolism of the outcome as a harbinger of things to come, and as a reflection of President Trump’s popularity,” said Chris Borick, a pollster at Muhlenberg College.
But Kris Kanthak, an associate professor of political science at the University of Pittsburgh, said there was a danger in reading too much into a special election. The November midterms, she said, would be a much broader gauge of Mr. Trump’s popularity and the Democrats’ ability to provide a bulwark against him.
Whatever the outcomes, she said hours before the counting of ballots could begin, pundits and campaign professionals alike will leap to a conclusion that “will be much more dramatic than it ought to be. November is a lifetime away in normal politics … and it’s about four lifetimes away in Trump politics.”
I tend to agree with Mr. Kanthak. All the media speculation about a big blue wave in November is premature. It still takes good quality candidates and a message tailored to each congressional district.
UPDATE: At around 5:30 a.m. ET, NBC News reported that it appeared that Lamb had won. The only outstanding votes are the approximately 200 absentee votes in Greene County, it said, and the provisional ballots that the district will count within the next seven days. Even with those added to the count, it does not appear that rival Rick Saccone can catch up. NBC News noted it was possible that there may be a recount ordered.
Republican officials are alleging voting irregularities in the District 18 special election, and say they plan to go to court seeking to impound all the voting machines used Tuesday.
A Republican source familiar with the campaign said that the GOP planned to petition for the voting machines used in all four counties to be impounded, pending a recount.
It is not yet clear where such a petition would be filed. But Republicans are investigating a number of purported Election Day irregularities including problems with the machines, voters being told to go to the wrong polling places, and Republican attorneys being barred from overseeing the counting of absentee ballots in Allegheny County.
County spokeswoman Amie Downs said that on Election Day there had been discussions with Republican attorneys about their ability to oversee the vote-counting process. Under the state Election Code, she said, such observers must have a signed authorization from the chair of the county committee. “They didn’t produce that until the very end of the evening, when the ballots had already been scanned,” she said.
Ms. Downs added that prior to providing the authorization, the Republican observer was allowed to watch from the doorway, and that the Democrats had no observers on hand for the ballot counting in Washington County.