Conor Lamb wins
Conor Lamb Wins Pennsylvania House Seat, Giving Democrats a Map for Trump Country
Conor Lamb, a Democrat and former Marine, scored a razor-thin but extraordinary upset in a special House election in southwestern Pennsylvania after a few thousand absentee ballots cemented a Democratic victory in the heart of President Trump’s Rust Belt base.
The Republican candidate, Rick Saccone, may still contest the outcome. But Mr. Lamb’s 627-vote lead Wednesday afternoon appeared insurmountable, given that the four counties in Pennsylvania’s 18th district have about 500 provisional, military and other absentee ballots left to count, election officials said.
That slim margin — out of almost 230,000 ballots cast in a district that Mr. Trump carried by nearly 20 percentage points in 2016 — nonetheless upended the political landscape ahead of November’s midterm elections. It also emboldened Democrats to run maverick campaigns even in deep-red areas where Republicans remain bedeviled by Mr. Trump’s unpopularity.
Republican officials in Washington said they were likely to demand a recount through litigation, and the National Republican Congressional Committee put out a call for voters to report any irregularities in the balloting. Matt Gorman, a spokesman for the committee, said the party was “not conceding anything.”
The battle for a district in suburban and rural areas around Pittsburgh underscored the degree to which Mr. Trump’s appeal has receded across the country. And it exposed the ways in which both parties are weighed down by divisive leaders: Democrats by Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader; Republicans by Mr. Trump and Paul D. Ryan, the speaker of the House.
Throughout the race, Mr. Lamb said he welcomed support from people who voted for Mr. Trump, and he saved his most blunt criticism for Mr. Ryan, highlighting the speaker’s ambitions to overhaul Social Security and Medicare.
Mr. Lamb’s approach could become a template for a cluster of more moderate Democrats contesting conservative-leaning seats, in states like Arkansas, Kansas and Utah. Democrats in Washington have focused chiefly on Republican-held seats in the upscale suburbs where Mr. Trump is most intensely disliked.
But they are hungry for gains across the political map, and in red areas they have encouraged candidates to put local imperatives above fealty to the national party, even tolerating outright disavowals of Ms. Pelosi.
Representative Cheri Bustos of Illinois, a Democrat who represents a farm and manufacturing district Mr. Trump narrowly carried, said the party’s recruits should feel free to oppose Ms. Pelosi if they choose. She noted that she was helping one such anti-Pelosi candidate, Paul Davis of Kansas, who was in Washington this week raising money.
“If they want somebody else to be a leader, then they ought to express that,” Ms. Bustos said. “I don’t have a problem with that.”