Democrat Conor Lamb has declared victory over Republican Rick Saccone in the special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, held Tuesday, March 13th. Less than 600 votes separate the two candidates in a race where more than 227,000 votes were cast. Saccone has not yet ceded the race, while absentee ballots continue to trickle in.
Republican Party officials have already said they will request a recount. They’ve also sought to impound all voting machines citing voter irregularities.
This special election—like others before—was billed as a litmus test for the GOP ahead of the 2018 midterms in November. The district, which encompasses part of Pittsburgh’s suburbs and stretches into rural southwestern Pennsylvania, supported President Donald Trump by 20 points in the 2016 election. Registered Democrats have a large presence, but the district was considered safely Republican for more than a decade. Republican congressman Tim Murphy held the seat since 2003, until allegations surfaced of an extramarital affair and texts urging his mistress to have an abortion appeared in the media. Murphy resigned from office in October 2017.
Lamb, a 33-year-old former Marine and U.S. Attorney, campaigned as a moderate Democrat who supported gun rights and promised to protect social safety nets. Throughout his campaign, Lamb said he wouldn’t support Nancy Pelosi to lead House Democrats, while promising to back the President when it benefited the district. As a state representative, Saccone ran as a staunch supporter of the Trump agenda. The former Air Force officer had become known in the region for his firebrand conservatism.
Lamb outspent Saccone by nearly a five-to-one margin. According to pre-special election FEC filings, Lamb spent $3.1 million while Saccone doled out roughly $615,000. Outside groups spent more than $13 million, with more than 80 percent supporting Saccone.
A new court-ordered congressional map will eliminate the 18th district in November. As a result, Saccone and Lamb could run again in separate districts during the 2018 midterms.