Lamb vs. Saccone: National attention on Pa's 18th District

Lamb vs. Saccone: National attention on Pa's 18th District

Javier Howell
March 14, 2018

Rick Saccone, the Republican candidate in the special election Tuesday (March 13) for Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District, sees Democratic voters as being energized by a hatred for President Donald Trump, a "hatred for our country" and even a "hatred for God".

Conor Lamb, Democratic congressional candidate for Pennsylvania's 18th district, arrives at his polling station at First Church of Christ, March 13, 2018 in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

Democrat Conor Lamb held a slight vote lead over Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone late Tuesday with 99 percent of precincts reporting - a result that will likely end in a recount.

Almost three hours after polls closed and with 99 percent of precincts reporting, unofficial results had Lamb leading Saccone by 847 votes.

The conclusion of a tight race that has gained national attention comes to an end Tuesday for Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb.

Numerous comments posted online took aim at Trump's June 2016 meeting with a Russian attorney, where the president's son was reportedly promised "dirt" on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Sen. Ted Cruz, well, cruised to renomination in Texas, garnering more than double the number of votes in the Republican primary that his much-ballyhooed liberal opponent-to-be, Rep. Robert F. "Beto" O'Rourke, received in the Democratic contest (1.32 million vs. 641,000). "I don't think we should play games", Trump said.

Saccone, this operative notes, didn't appear to be entirely comfortable at campaign events - including his appearances with President Trump - and "was hoping to win by going door to door, and you can't do that anymore". The fact that Saccone reportedly made no effort to reach out to these voters, either by running a get-out-the-vote operation or even by attempting to dress the part, didn't help either. On Monday, Donald Trump Jr. told me that this election was NOT a referendum on his father's performance in the White House.

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After all of the criticism of pollsters in 2016, the different scenarios give a peek at the art behind the science of polling - and may be something we see more frequently in political polls. Watch Pittsburgh television for an hour or so and you'll hear an ominous voice warning that Conor Lamb "isn't one of us". Saccone is a religious conservative and claims that he was "Trump before Trump was Trump". Other recent Republican candidates have also handily won the district. The seat has been in Republican hands for the last 15 years.

Saccone and Lamb are competing in the 18th District to replace Republican Tim Murphy, who resigned last October amid personal scandal.

He says Democrats are "throwing everything they can at this race" because it's a rare open seat. Saccone serves as a state legislator who is an Air Force veteran. Lamb has also promised not to back Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi for House speaker.

Wilson, a 74-year-old real estate agent from Robinson Township, said she likes Saccone because "he has the same views I do" in opposing abortion and the need to fight the opioid crisis. He's added his opposition to major new gun restrictions - though he backs expanded background checks - and declared himself personally opposed to abortion, despite his support for its legality.

Lamb rarely mentions Trump in his campaign speeches.

Trump referred to the Democrat as "Lamb the sham" and said he'd vote with his party in Washington if he's elected. His campaign has been endorsed by the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, the mine workers' union, and the steel workers.

The White House did much more for Saccone, sending in Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, and White House advisers Kellyanne Conway and Ivanka Trump.

Contributing: Jakob Lazzaro, Eric Miller, and Caroline Vakil reported from southwestern Pennsylvania for the Medill News Service.