Tuesday night’s special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district technically still undecided, but Democrat Conor Lamb has declared victory in a district Donald Trump won by 20 points in 2016.
With ballots counted in all 593 precincts in the heavily-Republican western Pennsylvania district, Lamb had a 641-vote lead over Republican Rick Saccone, by the New York Times’ count. Lamb declared victory around 12:45 A.M, but Saccone refused to concede early Wednesday morning, and may try to drag the race out, according to NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard.
NBC News also declared Lamb the “apparent winner” of the race; other outlets refrained from weighing in.
Lamb is a 33-year old former federal prosecutor and former Marine (the Democrats’ favorite kind of candidate) who was bolstered by union support in the race and ran on protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. His opponent, Saccone, ended his campaign saying liberals hate America, Donald Trump, and God.
If Lamb’s margin holds, he will replace Republican Tim Murphy, an anti-abortion Congressman who resigned last October after it was discovered that he pressured his mistress to have an abortion.
Liberal groups praised Lamb’s victory. “Tonight’s results demonstrate that when Democrats run on protecting and expanding Social Security and Medicare, they win,” Social Security Works executive director Alex Lawson said in a statement. “Lamb’s victory is a repudiation of Donald Trump and Paul Ryan‘s plans to gut the American people’s earned benefits.”
Lamb will get to serve this district in the House of Representatives for less than a year, and—should he choose to run again—will pretty much immediately have to start running for his next election in a new district. That’s because back in February, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court redrew the state’s Congressional map, which Republicans in the legislature had gerrymandered to their advantage in 2011.
According to a New York Times analysis of the new districts drawn by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the “most natural successor” to the 18th will be the new 14th district, which became even more conservative. Lamb, however, lives in the new 17th, which is a true swing district; according to the Times, it went for Trump by just 2.5 points in 2016.
Saccone, meanwhile, reportedly plans to run in the new 14th:
So, long story short, if Lamb’s victory holds, it will be largely symbolic, as this district won’t exist in less than 10 months and control of the House of Representatives is not on the line, as Republicans have a comfortable majority. Despite this, the prospect of a Democrat winning in such a deep-red district was framed as a national bellwether ahead of the November midterms. Trump campaigned in Pennsylvania on behalf of Saccone (despite the fact that he reportedly thought Saccone sucked) and outside groups spent over $13 million dollars on advertising in the race.
Extremely nice and normal government we have here.