PITTSBURGH (CN) – The results of a special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District remain too close to call Wednesday morning, hours after Democrat Conor Lamb declared victory based on a narrow lead over Republican Rick Saccone.
Leading over Saccone by just 579 votes at 1 a.m., with absentee ballots still left to count and all precincts reporting, Lamb took the stage at his election night party as “Congressman-elect Conor Lamb.”
“It took a little longer than we thought, but we got there,” the 33-year-old former Marine said.
The race to fill the open seat in Congress follows the resignation last October of Representative Tim Murphy, a Republican whose pro-life image was marred by allegations that he urged his mistress to undergo an abortion.
In contrast to Lamb, who ran as a moderate and actively worked to distance himself from national Democrats, the Republican Saccone brought out President Donald Trump for two rallies in his district.
Covering mostly Pittsburgh suburbs with a touch of Coal Country, the contested district itself will not exist in midterm elections later this year.
Though the district was shaped in what the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has determined to be an unconstitutional gerrymander by Republicans, a majority of judges found that throwing out the map ahead of Tuesday’s election would be too confusing for voters.
Democrats at the polls Monday voiced optimism about Lamb’s chances.
“I was happy to vote for Conor Lamb,” said retired school teacher Marilyn Lanna of Mt. Lebanon. “I don’t like a lot of things Rick Saccone stands for. His stance on education proves he is no friend of education as far as funding charter school vouchers goes.”
Luv Purohit, a 24-year-old med student who paid attention to the candidates on the campaign trail, said he was put off by Saccone’s stance on Pennsylvania’s heroin epidemic.
“I don’t watch too much TV, but I saw Saccone’s ad on YouTube promising to end the opiate crisis,” Purohit said. “Then I saw Lamb’s ad that showed how Saccone wanted to cut funding to families affected by addiction. That made me want to come out and vote.”
Raghu Nath, a professor of international strategic management at the University of Pittsburg, said he sees Lamb as a uniter.
“I want the country to stay united and not get divided,” Nath said. “It’s been splitting for the last 20 years.”
Language interpreter Carissa Yu, whose children attend Mt. Lebanon public schools, said she felt compelled to vote Democrat in the special election after last month’s high school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
“I want someone who can work on gun-control issues,” said Yu. “The mass shooting really scares me. I don’t know if my children will be 100 percent safe at school anymore.”
“I’m not opposed to the Second Amendment, but nobody should be allowed to walk into a store and buy a semiautomatic weapon,” Yu added.
Yu, who immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan in 1985, said she believes Lamb is the candidate who will better represent minority voters if elected.
“I’m am from Taiwan, my husband is from Belgium, both of us are immigrants,” she said. “The main reason we stayed here is because this is a land of opportunity. The Dreamers came here not by choice but because their parents brought them here. Now because a president doesn’t agree, you plan to kick them out? That really bothers me.
“We need someone who is more open minded and can accept different voices,” Yu added. “I feel like I need to have my voice heard.”