WASHINGTON — Democrat Conor Lamb, a federal prosecutor and former Marine, is in an ever-so-close race with Republican Rick Saccone in a Pennsylvania special election that could be a bellwether for the 2016 midterms.
With only a few thousand absentee ballots remaining to be counted, Lamb leads Saccone by fewer than 900 votes. But Democrats are boosted by the fact that the race was so close in a district Trump carried by 20 points in 2016. The president campaigned for Saccone last weekend.
Lamb declared victory early on Wednesday, telling supporters, “It took a little longer than we thought, but we did it,” he said. The Associated Press said that the race was still too close to call.
Saccone tried to run on Trump’s coattails, and said during the campaign that he “was Trump before Trump was Trump.”
The race last week showed a slight lead for Lamb, but there was some anticipation that Saccone could get a bounce after Trump announced steel and aluminum tariffs. That is particularly important in the district, where the United Steelworkers Union has a heavy presence.
The union, however, backed Lamb, and criticized Saccone for casting votes in the Pennsylvania House they see as anti-labor.
The district, which has been solidly Republican in the last decade, includes suburban and rural areas to the southwest and southeast of Pittsburgh.
“We’re not giving up,” Saccone told supporters, adding, “Don’t give up.”
The election was to fill a vacancy after the resignation of Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), who resigned after a scandal over an extramarital affair.