The Pennsylvania Special Election: What Comes Next?
The special election in Pennsylvania has not been decided, but with a new congressional map coming in November, candidates are planning their next moves.
The special election in southwest Pennsylvania garnered national attention for what it could portend for the midterm elections in November. Democratic enthusiasm in the heart of Trump country may have signaled a brewing blue wave in November. But on Wednesday morning, the winner of the House’s 18th district in Pennsylvania was not officially decided.
Here’s a look at what’s next for the candidates and the district that President Trump won by nearly 20 percentage points in 2016.
This week it is a special election
As of Wednesday morning, one small Republican-leaning county was still counting more than 1,000 absentee ballots. Conor Lamb, the Democratic candidate, had already claimed victory over Republican Rick Saccone. And House Republicans were talking about a recount and a legal challenge.
Under Pennsylvania’s state election law, this type of race does not require an automatic recount, but voters could request one through two different processes over the next week.
A recount, however, is unlikely to change the results, because most ballots in the state are cast electronically, said Neil Makhija, a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania’s law school and a former Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania’s state house.
“There could be a recount of the absentee ballots, provisional ballots, and some paper ballots in Westmoreland County, but Rick Saccone shouldn’t bet on it,” Mr. Makhija said.
Mr. Lamb, who considers himself the winner despite talk of a recount, said on Wednesday that he would serve out the remainder of the term representing the voters in the current 18th district.
The contested seat was left open after Representative Tim Murphy, an anti-abortion Republican, was forced to resign when a former lover said he pressed her to have an abortion.
“It’s a special election and a very special experience,” Mr. Lamb told CNN on Wednesday. Mr. Lamb could take office in the next few weeks, shifting the breakdown in Congress to 238 Republicans, 194 Democrats and three vacant seats. Democrats would need to win 24 seats in November to take control of the House.
But the district Mr. Lamb will represent for the rest of the year will not be the district he runs for in the next Congress, the result of a court-ordered redistricting of the state’s congressional boundaries.
“We’ll let the rest of it shake out,” Mr. Lamb said. “There is a lot of work to be done just in trying to bring solutions to the problems we talked about in six months.”
Next week starts the race for the November midterm elections
The uncertainty of the outcome of the special election has little bearing on the state’s primaries and general election, which effectively kick off on Tuesday — the deadline for candidates to file nominating petitions. In 2019, the 18th district that Mr. Lamb and Mr. Saccone are vying for will no longer exist in its current form, because of the state’s congressional redistricting.
Both men are likely to run in newly drawn districts, which means both Mr. Lamb and Mr. Saccone could find themselves as members of the Pennsylvania delegation in the 116th Congress.
Pennsylvania is a swing state that has backed politicians from both parties in the last two election cycles. Currently, Republicans control 13 of the 18 House seats. Experts think the newly drawn congressional districts will benefit Democrats.
Mr. Lamb is likely to run to be the Democratic candidate for the newly drawn 17th district, which includes more of the Pittsburgh suburbs and is favorable to Democrats.
That could be a crowded field for Democrats, according to Mr. Makhija, but he predicts Mr. Lamb will be a difficult candidate to beat in the primaries to be held on May 15.
Mr. Saccone is likely to run to be the Republican nominee in the new 14th district, which is heavily Republican. Mr. Makhija said the race for that seat has a fairly open field going into the Republican primaries. However, he said, “After last night, I don’t think there is such a thing as a safe Republican district.”
Even after the embarrassing defeat in the special Alabama Senate election three months ago, Mr. Trump threw his weight behind Mr. Saccone in what was considered friendly Republican territory. Mr. Trump campaigned twice with Mr. Saccone. The president mocked Mr. Lamb as “Lamb the sham,” a reference to Republicans’ contention that Mr. Lamb ran with a conservative agenda. Mr. Trump also gave a rambling, hour-plus speech in which he only mentioned Mr. Saccone a handful of times.