A special congressional election in Pennsylvania’s eighteenth district has captured the attention of the nation but is still not final, and likely won’t be, until next week at the earliest. Thirty-three-year-old Democrat Conor Lamb has declared victory however. A Marine veteran, Lamb said that voters had instructed him to go to Washington and “do your job.”
“Mission accepted,” he told a crowd of supporters.
Lamb will have managed to pull off a major upset if he can hold on to his slight lead through what is likely to be a series of recounts and vote-certification measures. It would be the first time a Democrat has been elected to Congress form the PA-18th since 2003, an even more remarkable feat considering how deep-red the district is – President Donald Trump won it by more than twenty points in 2016.
Republicans reportedly spent $9.1 million on the race between the between the Congressional Leadership Fund, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and other groups. Democrats and groups aligned with labor unions spent less than $1 million.
Lamb’s opponent, Republican Rick Saccone had enjoyed not just major backing by the national Republican Party but from President Trump himself. The President not only campaigned for Saccone more than once, but also sent Vice President Mike Pence, his son Donald Trump Jr. and daughter Ivanka Trump to stump for him as well. Saccone had famously said that he was “Trump before Trump was Trump” in describing his positions.
Democrats hailed the victory as a harbinger of a wave in this year’s midterm elections. They flipped a seat that is so reliably Republican that former Congressman Tim Murphy ran unopposed in many elections. Murphy resigned from Congress last October amid allegations he pressured a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair to terminate a pregnancy.
Democrats hadn’t given much thought to competing in the district even after Murphy’s resignation. Conor Lamb changed that calculus.
Lamb may be a Democrat, but he has struck decidedly anti-Democratic tones on the campaign trail. He hails from a politically-connected family in the Pittsburgh but is himself a political neophyte, and he made his political independence clear when he vowed not to support House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to become Speaker of the House should Democrats retake the majority in the chamber.
He has made his support for gun-rights clear and has also said he doesn’t believe in abortion.
What Lamb did do was is campaign on strict economic-populist messages, laying out a strategy to court labor-union votes in a bid to retake territory in American’s Rust Belt. He supports protecting entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, is strong on ending Pennsylvania’s opioid crisis, and supports President Trump’s recently announced tariffs on steel and aluminum, making him someone, who, supporters believe, will be more for voters back home than either Party in Washington.
Saccone has yet to officially concede the race. “This campaign and this fight is NOT over, and we’re going to fight this until every vote is securely in and counted,” a Saccone-campaign-fundraising email sent yesterday read.
By the end of this week, county election officials will meet to begin reviewing the votes cast on election day. Next week counties will begin reviewing military or overseas ballots receives, of which there are a few hundred. Once county election officials approve results, Republicans can request a recount which they have already indicated they will do. Even if no recounts are requested, there will have to be a five-day waiting period before votes can be sent the state election office for certification.
The earliest the state can certify the election result is March 26, although that may take longer, officials said, depending on how quickly the process runs at the country level.