Politics

Lamb to Challenge Rothfus in 17th District, Says Local Party Official

Pa. Democrat won special election this week in neighboring district

Conor Lamb, Democratic congressional candidate for Pennsylvania’s 18th district, greets supporters at an election night rally March 14, 2018 in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. Lamb claimed victory against Republican candidate Rick Saccone. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Democrat Conor Lamb is running in the 17th District against GOP Rep. Keith Rothfus, after winning an upset victory in the 18th District. The news was first reported by the Beaver County Times and confirmed by a local Democratic official. 

The move was expected since Rothfus’ seat became more favorable to Democrats in the recent Pennsylvania redistricting. The state Supreme Court imposed a new congressional map, which is still being challenged in federal court. Under the new lines, President Donald Trump would have won Rothfus’ seat by two points. 

The Associated Press has not yet called the 18th District election for Lamb, who leads GOP state Rep. Rick Saccone by 627 votes. But signatures to file in the newly configured districts are due on March 20. Saccone has already been circulating signatures in the new 18th District, now the 14th, and Lamb has not yet said publicly where he would run.

But the Beaver County Times reported that Lamb had applied for the endorsement of the Beaver County Democratic Committee, which is located in the 17th District, currently held by Rothfus. Under the new lines, Lamb now lives in Rothfus’ district.

Beaver County Democratic Committee Chairman Stephen Dupree confirmed the report Thursday afternoon. Dupree said an official with the Lamb campaign phoned him on Wednesday and gave him the $150 fee to apply for the committee’s endorsement.

“They erased his district so he now lives in 17th District. Why wouldn’t he run there?” Dupree said of Lamb in a phone interview. “He’s going to have some similar voters. And he’s going to have the same type of voters a lot of Democrats who are socially conservative and pro-gun rights so I think his message of working together is going to go far in this district.”

The committee will meet on March 22 to endorse a candidate. Two other candidates, attorney Beth Tarasi and teacher Aaron Anthony, have applied for the committee’s endorsement. Dupree said there could be other candidates who apply, including Ray Lindenmeyer, who founded a group to mobilize Democrats in the area.

Republicans have argued that Lamb would not survive a Democratic primary that could favor more liberal candidates. But Dupree said he believed primary voters in the district would pick a more centrist Democrat.

Dupree said Lamb already had an advantage of a robust campaign and ground game, but he also has the challenge of introducing himself to new voters, particularly in Beaver County.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced Thursday that Lamb would be added to their Frontline Program, which supports vulnerable incumbents. Lamb’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the 17th District Tilt Republican.

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