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Democrat clings to lead in Pennsylvania House race; GOP eyes recount

By The Associated Press

This article was originally published March 14, 2018 at 10:07 a.m. Updated March 14, 2018 at 6:09 p.m.

CANONSBURG, Pa. — Republicans eyed a recount and a lawsuit over perceived irregularities in a closely watched U.S. House race in Pennsylvania where Democrat Conor Lamb clung to a slender lead Wednesday in the longtime GOP stronghold friendly to President Donald Trump.

With the last batch of absentee ballots counted, Lamb, a 33-year-old former prosecutor and first-time candidate, saw his edge shrink slightly, to 627 votes out of more than 224,000 cast, according to unofficial results.

The four counties in the Pittsburgh-area district reported they had about 375 uncounted provisional, military and overseas ballots. They have seven days to count the provisional ballots, and the deadline to receive military and overseas ballots is next Tuesday.

With the margin so close, supporters of either candidate can ask for a recount.

The GOP is considering lodging a recount request, and county officials reported receiving a letter from a law firm requesting that they preserve their records, something the counties say they do anyway under state law.

Separately, Republicans mulled legal action, according to a person familiar with the deliberations. This person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning.

Complaints could include that party lawyers were prevented from observing the counting of some absentee ballots, voting machines erroneously recorded votes from Lamb, and voters were confused by some information from the state elections website.

Officials in Allegheny County, the most populous and Democratic-leaning county in the district, pushed back on Republican claims Wednesday, saying the lawyers had lacked written authorization from the GOP and they had received no reports Tuesday of malfunctioning voting machines.

The Associated Press has not called the race, which is seen nationally as indicator of Democratic enthusiasm and GOP vulnerability heading into the November elections that will determine whether Republicans retain their control of Congress.

Lamb has declared victory. Saccone, a 60-year-old Air Force veteran turned state lawmaker and college instructor, hasn't conceded. Both men stayed out of sight Wednesday, and Saccone's campaign said that Saccone had no plans to concede before vote counting was finished.

The counties, under state law, perform an audit of the results on the electronic voting machines that typically involves comparing the overall tally on a hard drive, a flash drive and a paper tape that separately record each vote. Deviations are a rarity, county officials say.

Absentee ballots are open to inspection to determine whether the person is eligible to vote or whether the voter's intent was clear, and that is more likely where a review might alter a final count, said Douglas Hill, executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.

But a difference is "never large numbers, it's always around the margins," Hill said.

Regardless of the outcome, Lamb's showing seemed certain to stoke anxiety among Republicans nationwide and renew enthusiasm among Democrats.

Trump won the district by about 20 percentage points in 2016, and the seat has been in Republican hands for the past 15 years. It was open now only because Republican Rep. Tim Murphy, who espoused strong anti-abortion views, resigned last fall amid revelations that he had asked a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair to get an abortion.

Democrats must flip 24 GOP-held seats this fall to seize control of the House, and months ago few had counted on this district to be in play.

Lamb asserted his independence from national Democratic leaders and played down his opposition to Trump. But he also fully embraced organized labor in a district with influential labor unions and a long history of steel-making and coal-mining, hammering Republican tax cuts as a giveaway to the rich and promising to defend Social Security, Medicare and pensions.

Trump and his allies, meanwhile, invested time and resources in the seat, mindful the contest could be used to measure Trump's lasting appeal among white, working-class voters and Democrats' anti-Trump fervor.

Outside groups aligned with Republicans poured more than $10 million into the contest, about seven times the outside money that helped Lamb.

Saccone had cast himself as the president's "wingman." But where Murphy had long allied himself with unions, Saccone's conservative voting record alienated them.

A White House spokesman Wednesday warned against reading too much into the razor-thin outcome, saying Trump's campaigning for Saccone "turned what was a deficit for the Republican candidate to what is essentially a tie."

Under a state court order in a gerrymandering case, the seat is one of Pennsylvania's 18 U.S. House districts whose boundaries will change next year, and the new ones will be in play in this year's mid-term elections.

Even before Tuesday night's vote, Saccone was making plans to seek the nomination in a different district in May's primary, a new southwestern Pennsylvania district that leans solidly Republican without the Pittsburgh suburbs that helped Lamb.

Neither Saccone nor Lamb lives in that district, but Saccone is planning to run there since, under the new boundaries, Saccone's home is in a Pittsburgh-based district that is heavily Democratic and home to longtime Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle.

Lamb is expected to run in a new district west of Pittsburgh against Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus. That district is far less friendly to Republicans than Rothfus' existing district and is described by Republicans as a toss-up.

Read Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.


Comments on: Democrat clings to lead in Pennsylvania House race; GOP eyes recount

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RBear says... March 14, 2018 at 11:38 a.m.

This is great and a slap in the face of those right wingers who are touting a mid-term increase by Republicans, right wingers such as moz. A district that went solidly for Trump in 2016 rejected the Republican nominee EVEN after Trump and family campaigned for the nominee AND over $10 million in outside money was spent on the campaign. There was more outside money spent on the Republican nominee than the Democrat.
The problem with the Republican campaign and message was that it is dated and does not reflect the current of affairs. The R campaign tried to tie Lamb to Pelosi when most Democrats, including myself, have rejected her leadership in the party as out of touch. They attempted to paint Lamb as anti-gun when in fact he's for responsible Second Amendment rights like most Democrats are.
Lamb's position on abortion rights is much like many Democrats in that he's opposed to abortions, but feels the Supreme Court has ruled that a woman has a right to make her own health choices absent a nanny state which tries to impose religious beliefs on the process. He also supports LGBT rights and does not feel it is the right of government to infringe on individual rights based on religious beliefs.
In other words, he's what most Democrats are these days and why Democrats stand to win big at the mid-term. Republicans may try to paint it differently, but that doesn't square with Americans who have seen too many lies from the head Republican and are rejecting his hypocrisy as well as that of other Republicans.

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BOLTAR says... March 14, 2018 at 11:39 a.m.

Democratic candidates nationwide hope Trump stumps for their opponent.

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Packman says... March 14, 2018 at 12:16 p.m.

Hey RBear and Boltar - Nah, you're wrong. Lamb won because he ran as a conservative. Lamb spoke kindly of President Trump, supported Trump's tax cuts, refused to malign the NRA, and proudly said he was personally pro life. In reality, the district again went solidly for President Trump.
Nevertheless, there is little doubt the electoral energy rests with the democrat base founded in hatred that Trump beat Hillary. Lamb provided a winning blueprint for Democrats in the midterms but there's little chance it will be followed due to the extreme leftists Democrats will offer this fall, with one exception being central Arkansas where the D candidate will attempt to emulate Lamb as a Blue Dog Democrat.
At this moment I would say there's am 80% chance the D's take back the House based solely on a more motivated base and the R's only flip 2 seats in the Senate. Although, the D's may pull a "Hillary" and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in key races.

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RBear says... March 14, 2018 at 12:38 p.m.

Pack ever trying to find relevance in the discussion. Once again, you’re wrong and are trying to portray this as a win for conservatives. It’s a win for moderates of which most are Democrats. A while back you were saying Rs would hold the House and would gain some seats (I really need to archive your comments because you change tunes so much).
Lamb has been a D from day one, just not the D you like to portray. He’s personally pro-life but supports a woman’s right to choose, just as I am. Amazing how bad you are at reading comprehension. Try to get some help with that. It makes you look so much like a fool.

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Packman says... March 14, 2018 at 1:42 p.m.

Hey RBear - You're lying. I never said the R's would retain control of the House. And if my analysis is wrong why not point out where instead of retreating to ad hominem attack?
The answer, of course, is I am NOT wrong. Based on Lamb's politics he's inches apart from Donald Trump and light years from Nancy Pelosi. Or did I miss it where Lamb supports sanctuary cities, NAFTA, an assault weapons ban, rolling back Trump's tax cuts, or screaming at the top of his lungs that Trump needs to be impeached?

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TimberTopper says... March 14, 2018 at 1:48 p.m.

It appears that the great Trump has been told he's not needed. Even after he slapped that tariff on just as another way of getting votes there. Appears that some have woke up from the sleep they were in. That might happen other places. Packy, it's hard to play both sides against the middle with your feeble comments.

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BOLTAR says... March 14, 2018 at 1:53 p.m.

Packman has long demonstrated he will say anything at any time and then accuse you of doing the same or worse. He is unfit as a partner for civil discourse.

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RBear says... March 14, 2018 at 2:34 p.m.

Pack biggest pack of lies I’ve ever seen. If you weren’t so insignificant I would archive your comments. You changed stories so much on Parkland it was insane.
BS on the Lamb position. I can tell you he would attack Trump in a second. Most of the Ds have distanced themselves from Pelosi just as we’ve moved on from the Hillary loss. It’s Rs who hang onto that because it’s the only negative narrative you have. Out of date and out of touch.

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3WorldState1 says... March 14, 2018 at 2:41 p.m.

Wake up call? I can think of 20 wake up calls by this President in the last 2 months. Paul Ryan is a spineless phony.
I read Fox Entertainment. It's all black murders. Women getting kidnapped and stories about super fringe left people that I've never heard of, but they make out like those people are leading the Dem or Ind parties. This is why you hear this garbage all the time from the right. Fox is for old people. Tell me their viewing age again? I rest my case.

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mozarky2 says... March 14, 2018 at 4:21 p.m.

Congrats to you "progs'" on your PA win.
However, I'm sticking with my prediction for November: GOP picks up seats in the House, 6-12 seats in the Senate.
RB's spittle-flecked flecked invective, childish tantrum, and ad hominem attacks begin in three...two...

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