Democrats pick Conor Lamb to run against Rick Saccone for vacant House seat
Western Pennsylvania Democrats on Sunday picked Conor Lamb, a former federal prosecutor and Marine veteran, to be the party’s candidate for a March special election to represent the 18th Congressional District.
Lamb, 33, of Mt. Lebanon, will face Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone in an election to replace former U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, a Republican who resigned last month in the wake of an extramarital scandal.
Lamb won by big margins in two rounds of voting against six candidates who vied for the Democratic Party’s nomination during an afternoon meeting at Washington High School.
Only county committee members from the 18th District, which includes parts of Allegheny, Washington, Westmoreland and Greene counties, could vote, according to party rules. Democratic party leaders said 554 committee members participated.
Lamb cast himself Sunday as a foil to what he called the hypocrisy of elected Republicans, who he says are failing to fulfill campaign promises.
“For some reason, (Tim) Murphy and his crowd seem to think that we all have amnesia,” he said. “But we do not. We remember that they promised us jobs. And they can’t even introduce an infrastructure bill, the one thing that would create jobs here tomorrow. We remember that they promised us tax cuts, and they delivered tax cuts for the 1 percent. We remember that they promised us health care, and every single time we turn around they’re trying to take health care away,” he said.
Lamb, who has no political experience, served in the U.S. Marine Corps prior to being appointed as an assistant U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh in 2014. He left that job to pursue the nomination, he said.
Lamb’s grandfather was the Democratic majority leader in the state Senate in the early 1970s and later served in Gov. Robert Casey’s cabinet. His uncle, Michael Lamb, is the Pittsburgh city controller.
Sunday’s selection sets up an election that Democratic Party leaders said would be closely watched ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The 18th District has more registered Democrats than Republicans but has heavily favored Republicans in recent presidential contests.
Saccone has been described as a conservative firebrand who likens himself to President Donald Trump. The 59-year-old from Elizabeth Township beat Republican candidates considered more moderate at a Republican party meeting a week ago.
Lamb told reporters he thinks voters are more focused on solutions to their problems than on favoring one party or another.
When asked about his views on abortion, Lamb said “choice is the law of the land. I will defend that law.”
When asked about gun regulations, he said he thinks “we need to have the conversation” while expressing an affection for firearms he said he picked up as a Marine.
Lamb said his priorities would be jobs and infrastructure improvements. He said he would soon announce specific proposals on those fronts.
State GOP spokesman Greg Manz issued a statement following Lamb’s selection, calling him “the epitome of a political insider and far too liberal for one of the nation’s most conservative districts, a district that President Trump won with close to 60 percent of the vote. For years, Washington, D.C., Democrats and liberal special interests have been grooming Conor Lamb to be a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi.”
The committee members on Sunday eliminated four candidates in the first round of voting: Rueben Brock, a professor and counselor from Cecil; Mike Crossey, a retired financial representative from Mt. Lebanon; Keith Seewald, a gardener and writer from Mt. Lebanon; and Bob Solomon, an emergency physician from Oakdale.
Eliminated in the second round of voting were Gina Cerilli, a Westmoreland County commissioner from Hempfield; and Pam Iovino, a retired naval officer and Veterans Affairs assistant secretary from Mt. Lebanon.
The special election will be held March 13.
Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676 or [email protected].