Democratic candidate Conor Lamb is doing so well in a race for a congressional seat in Pennsylvania’s 18th district that Republicans are in a state of visible panic. The GOP is outspending Lamb 17-1 in their effort to avoid another humiliating loss in the special election on March 13.
For fifteen years, the western Pennsylvania district, which includes the city of Pittsburgh, has been a shoe-in for Republican Tim Murphy. There were years when no Democratic contenders even came forward to challenge Murphy. But in October, the longtime congressman resigned after reports that he forced a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair to have an abortion.
Despite the scandal, Democrats’ chances are so low in the district that Cook Political Report rates at R+11.
Rick Saccone was the GOP’s choice to run in the special election. But Saccone has often been called “Trump 2.0”, and has said he considers the nickname “an honor.”
Into this fracas has stepped 33-year-old Democrat Conor Lamb, a Pittsburgh native who is brand new to politics. He is a Marine and a former assistant US attorney who prosecuted drug dealers during Pennsylvania’s opioid crisis.
In an effort to appeal to blue-collar workers, Lamb is keeping his distance from the official Democratic Party. He is not accepting Super PAC money and in recent weeks he has called for Nancy Pelosi to be replaced as the leader of House Democrats, citing the failure of Congress to advocate for working people.
Lamb’s strategy appears to be having an effect. A recent Monmouth poll showed Saccone only slightly ahead, favored by 49 percent of voters, compared to Lamb’s 46 percent.
Nervous over the threat Lamb is suddenly posing, Republicans are putting everything they’ve got into the race. They have spent an estimated $4.7 million on television and radio ads (compared to Lamb’s $300,000). And Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Ivanka Trump have all come out to stump for Saccone.
While the odds are not in Lamb’s favor, as we have seen in other special elections this year, victories for the Democrats in unlikely areas are becoming more the rule than the exception.
Plus, even if Lamb can’t pull out a win in Pennsylvania in March, he could get another chance in November, when the seat will be up for election again. An added benefit in November is that the 18th district will be more favorable to the Democrat because of a new map which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has implemented to reverse a gerrymander that has given Republicans an advantage in the area since 2011.
Pictured: Conor Lamb and a potential constituent.