Republican Concedes Loss in Pennsylvania Special Election

Conor Lamb, the Democratic candidate for the March 13 special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, celebrates with his supporters at his election night party in Canonsburg, Pa., on, March 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH (CN) – Over a week after Democrat Conor Lamb claimed victory in Pennsylvania’s highly anticipated special election, the Republican candidate ended his party’s push for a recount Wednesday night.

“This afternoon, I spoke to Mr. Lamb, conceding the race in the Pennsylvania 18th Congressional District and congratulating him on his victory,” Rick Saccone said in a statement.

In a Republican-held district that went to President Donald Trump by nearly 20 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election, Saccone’s campaign received millions of funding dollars and widespread party support including two rallies featuring speeches by Trump.

The 60-year-old’s narrow loss to 33-year-old Lamb is widely believed to have rattled the party meanwhile heading into November’s midterm election.

“While there are less than 800 votes separating us, the people of the 18th District deserve to have a voice representing them in Congress,” said Saccone, who notched one of the commonwealth’s most conservative voting records in his former role as a state lawmaker.

Lamb’s election marks the first Democratic win since 2002 for the southernmost corner of Western Pennsylvania, but his tenure in the 18th District be a short one. The former Marine filed this week for re-election in the 17th Congressional District based on new map redrawn by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court after it found that Republican lawmakers had gerrymandered election districts in the state to give their party an advantage.

Lamb’s swearing-in in the 18th District is expected to happen after April 2. The seat in Congress opened up after former Republican Rep. Tim Murphy resigned amid a highly publicized scandal involving an extramarital affair with a woman he allegedly urged to get an abortion when she thought she might be pregnant.

Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus meanwhile controls the newly drawn 17th District that Lamb is now eyeing.

Republican Rick Saccone, left, and his wife, Yong Saccone, walk through members of the media as they head to the polling place to cast their ballots on March 13, 2018, in McKeesport, Pa. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Last week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added Lamb’s name to “Frontline,” an incumbent protection program that provides lawmakers with additional campaign support in high-priority areas on the campaign trail.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has an equivalent list of candidates known as the Patriot Program, and Rep. Rothfus is on it.

Rothfus, who currently serves Pennsylvania’s 12th District, joined other Republicans in their efforts to block the new court-issued map in a series of unsuccessful federal lawsuits.

“They did this with absolutely no input from the citizens of the region,” Rothfus said of the court’s redrawn maps.

“Constituent input is essential in such a process, which is why the federal Constitution delegates, expressly and exclusively, the redistricting responsibility to the state legislature. The mass confusion and chaos caused by the court’s misguided actions is completely unacceptable.”

For the court, however, the need to draft the map was unavoidable after Republican-majority lawmakers failed to put forward a suitable replacement.

With the new maps in effect for the May 15 primary election, Saccone has supporters that he will run again as a candidate for the 14th District.

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