“Just got off the phone with my opponent, @RickSaccone4PA, who congratulated me & graciously conceded last Tuesday’s election,” Lamb, 33, said in tweet Wednesday. The Associated Press also reported Saccone’s concession.
Lamb led Saccone by just 627 votes out of about 228,000 cast. The race remained unsettled for days after the March 13 vote as absentee, military and provisional ballots were counted. Republican officials took initial steps to prepare for a possible recount.
The victory by a Democrat in an area that Trump won by almost 20 points in 2016 is an ominous sign for Republicans looking ahead to elections in November that will decide control of Congress. It is the second time since December that a GOP candidate with the full backing of the president has lost a special election in a heavily Republican area, foreshadowing a potential Democratic surge that may flip control of the House.
The November election will be held amid a slew of retirements by Republicans in closely divided districts, Trump’s historically low approval ratings and polls showing voters favoring Democratic congressional candidates over Republicans. The GOP also is bucking historical trends. Before Tuesday’s election, Democrats needed a net gain of 24 seats, and the party holding the White House has averaged a net loss of 26 in midterm elections since the end of World War II.
Saccone leaned heavily on Trump and promised he’d help the president carry out his agenda. The president, Vice President Mike Pence and president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., all appeared on Saccone’s behalf. National conservative and GOP groups also stepped in to assist Saccone, spending more than $10 million on the race, much of it on TV ads bashing Lamb.
But Saccone, 60, didn’t capture the ardent support that Trump himself generates. He significantly trailed Lamb in fundraising. Unions, which had backed the Republican who previously held the seat, put their money and organizations behind Lamb.
Lamb by contrast distanced himself from national Democrats, saying he wouldn’t support Representative Nancy Pelosi of California as the party’s leader in the House. The Marine veteran backs expanded background checks for gun buyers but opposes major new limits on firearms ownership. He’s also largely avoided talking about Trump.
His mix of positions that weren’t always aligned with the national Democratic Party made it hard for the GOP to cast Lamb as a liberal who’s out of step with voters in the district. That and a focus on local issues was largely the same formula Democrat Doug Jones used to win a special election for the Senate in heavily Republican Alabama.
Democrats hadn’t even run a candidate for the House seat in the last two elections. The Republican who represented the district since the 2002 election, Tim Murphy, resigned last October amid a personal scandal.
The election will be the last in the district as a result of a redrawing of the Pennsylvania political map ordered by the state supreme court.