Democrat clings to lead in Pa. House race; GOP eyes recountMarch 15, 2018 12:15am

CANONSBURG, Pa. (AP) — 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 over Republican Rick Saccone 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 tremendous 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 on 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."

Lamb's victory is somewhat symbolic.

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.


Associated Press writer Lisa Mascaro in Washington contributed to this report. Follow Barrow and Levy on Twitter at and .

Page 1 of 1

More Stories Like This

File - In this Jun 7, 2013, file photo, the Facebook "like" symbol is illuminated on a sign outside the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Facebook is having one of its worst weeks as a publicly traded company with a share sell-off continuing for a second day. Britain's Commissioner Elizabeth Denham told the BBC that she was investigating Facebook and has asked the company not to pursue its own audit of Cambridge Analytica's data use. Denham is also pursuing a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica's servers. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
The Latest: Cambridge Analytica whistleblower regrets work
FILE - In this March 15, 2018 file photo, President Donald Trump talks with reporters during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. A former Playboy model who claimed she had an affair with President Donald Trump is seeking to invalidate an agreement that prohibited her from discussing the relationship. The woman, Karen McDougal, filed a lawsuit Tuesday, March 20  in Los Angeles against the company that owns supermarket tabloid National Enquirer. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
White House increasingly facing questions about Trump's past
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speak to reporters about the massive government spending bill moving through Congress, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 22, 2018. The bipartisan $1.3 trillion spending bill pours huge sums into Pentagon programs and domestic initiatives ranging from building roads to combatting the nation's opioid abuse crisis, but left Congress in stalemate over shielding young Dreamer immigrants from deportation and curbing surging health insurance premiums. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House OKs $1.3 trillion budget bill, but Senate stalls
GOP lawmakers seek to impeach judges over congressional mapTwelve Republican state legislators in Pennsylvania have signed on to resolutions seeking to impeach four Democratic justices on the state Supreme Court over their rulings in a politically contentious congressional redistricting case
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, speaks with House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., right, behind closed doors following a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony honoring the Office of Strategic Services in Emancipation Hall on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Lawmakers release huge budget; big military, domestic boosts
FILE - In this Jan. 10, 2018, file photo,  Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., appears at the Capitol for a vote in Washington. Cochran announced his retirement March 5 due to health issues. The state's governor will appoint Cindy Hyde-Smith to fill the vacancy, three state Republicans told The Associated Press on Tuesday, March 20. Hyde-Smith, the state's agriculture commissioner, would become Mississippi's first female member of Congress and would serve until a special election on Nov. 6. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Correction: Senate-Mississippi story

Related Searches

Related Searches