More than a week after the polls closed, Republican Rick Saccone has conceded Pennsylvania’s special election to his Democratic rival, Conor Lamb.
On Wednesday night Lamb tweeted that Saccone called him with the news.
Ready to be sworn in & get to work for the people of #PA18.
Lamb held a lead of 668 votes as of Monday. The March 13 special election has not been officially certified and it’s unclear when Lamb will be sworn into the House of Representatives.
Republicans had been asking voters to send in reports of irregularities. The state Republican Party has sent letters to the Pennsylvania Secretary of State and the Department of Justice asking them to look into alleged irregularities.
Allegheny County had expected to hear ballot challenges on Friday and certify results next week.
But these challenges are likely a moot point given Saccone’s concession.
The Republican candidate confirmed he had called Lamb to concede.
“While there are less than 800 votes separating us, the people of the 18th District deserve to have a voice representing them in Congress,” Saccone said in a statement Wednesday night.
Lamb, a 33-year-old former federal prosecutor and Marine, running in his first campaign for elected office, won in a momentous upset in a region that has been dominated by the GOP for nearly two decades.
More significant than the seat itself, which Lamb will occupy only until January, is the tone the result sets for Democrats nationwide.
The party is hopeful that widespread backlash against President Donald Trump will turn out voters in November who are seeking to send a message to the White House and thus deliver Democrats a majority in the House.
And Lamb’s victory also puts Democrats one seat closer to the 23 seats they now need in their quest to retake control of the House of Representatives.
Lamb chose not to make his campaign about Trump, instead running a predominantly local race focused on issues like jobs, entitlement programs and the opioid epidemic, but the president’s fingerprints remained all over the special election. Trump visited the region twice in the two months prior to Election Day, most recently on the Saturday before the election when he stumped in support of Saccone, telling a raucous crowd that he was an “extraordinary guy” and that Republicans “needed him” in Washington.
Saccone, 60, a four-term state representative, was further boosted by appearances by Vice President Mike Pence and the president’s children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. But Saccone was also derided in Republican circles in the closing weeks of the campaign as a weak candidate with anemic fundraising numbers who was too heavily reliant on the injection of outside money from Republican groups.
Trump won the district in 2016 by nearly 20 points, largely on the back of his promises to protect American workers, a pledge that resonated with the region’s blue-collar workforce that witnessed firsthand the impact of the fading steel and coal industries. Lamb successfully harnessed the organizing power of a substantial number of the district’s union-members, earning the endorsement of the AFL-CIO, a strategy that served the district’s previous representative, Republican Rep. Tim Murphy, well in his eight election victories.
Murphy resigned in October in the midst of a sex scandal after a report that he urged the woman with whom he was having an affair to seek an abortion.
Saccone, who ran a fairly traditional campaign that touted his experience in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and his experience as an Air Force counterintelligence agent, had fundraising trouble from the start. He ultimately lagged behind Lamb by nearly $3 million.
The only thing preventing perhaps a wider margin of victory for Lamb was the injection of outside money into the race. Republican and GOP-aligned groups poured over $10 million into the race on Saccone’s behalf, including over $3.5 million from the National Republican Congressional Committee and $3.4 million from the Paul Ryan-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund Super PAC.
Now comes the next election for both men.
Pennsylvania candidates are running under a new House map in November, thanks to a court-ordered redistricting plan.
Lamb filed to run in the fall in the 17th Congressional District, where his hometown of Mt. Lebanon was moved to under the new House map. Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus holds that seat and has $1.2 million in his campaign account.
Meanwhile, Saccone filed to run in the 14th Congressional District, which holds a lot of the 18th’s original acreage and is much friendlier to Republicans than the district in which his hometown of Elizabeth was placed. The new 14th Congressional District has no sitting incumbent. Its area mainly consists of the seat that Murphy held before he resigned.
But both men will face something they didn’t in their last election – primary contests.
Two other Democrats filed to run against Lamb in the 17th Congressional District while one other Republican has filed to challenge Saccone in the 14th Congressional District, according to the Pennsylvania Secretary of State’s website, where candidate petitions were due on Tuesday.
Both men would be favored to win their respective contests in the May 15 primary given the national name recognition they received in last week’s special election.
And should each man prevail in his respective contests in November, they would serve in Congress together next year.