Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District became the epicenter of a fundamental political battle on Tuesday when, after years of Republican control, a 33-year-old democrat took the baton from the red party and narrowly won the popular vote.
Conor Lamb, a former prosecutor, and Navy veteran raised a political campaign out of nowhere, becoming a fresh face for the Democratic Party when it was needed most.
The position was available after Representative Tim Murphy (R) was forced to resign over an alleged extramarital love affair, and Lamb was elected as the Democratic candidate at the party's convention last November.
With a campaign focused on the crisis of opioids, jobs and infrastructure, affordable health care, the protection of Medicare and Social Security, the reform of the student loan system, among others, Lamb managed to get his message across the intricate routes of the District’s rural community, getting to speak directly to the needs of the population and taking distance from political proselytism that emanated from the multi-million dollar campaign of his opponent.
As Vox explained, "in a show of last-minute panic,” Republicans threw money at the special election “in a district President Donald Trump won by 19 points.”
Their Trojan horse was candidate Rick Saccone, who represents the 39th district for the party, and who became the Republican's preferred candidate for his radical positions in cuts of social programs to pay off the government’s federal debt.
In the same way, Saccone has described himself as "Trump before Trump was Trump," as Reuters recalls, and represents the Republican ideal to the letter: anti-abortion, pro-weapons, supported the Alabama candidate Roy Moore when he faced allegations of sexual harassment, opposes union rights, and even supported the government's Tax Reform until it proved to be a thorny issue among his voters, the Washington Post explained.
When the day finally came, both candidates saw their voters split up into similar groups in the decision, giving the victory to Lamb with only 627 votes, but marking an important milestone in a territory where Republicans have won for 15 consecutive years thanks, in part, to the state’s partisan gerrymandering that has been recently renewed by the Supreme Court, but which will not come into force until May 15. In short, the Democrats beat the Republicans at their own game.
Despite the rumors that surrounded Lamb after his controversial statements against the leader of the minority in the House, Nancy Pelosi, and after having confessed not to be a supporter of abortion (positions that earned him the nickname of "chameleon" from his opponent), the candidate has proven to be one of the successful new strategies of a Democratic Party in a process of transformation, and that could sweep Republicans from judicial bodies this year.
The multibillion-dollar donations to the Saccone campaign or the erratic violent speech of President Trump just days before the election didn’t help either, and the reality of a democratic battle that advances one-district-at a-time is imminent.
There are still 24 seats left to win for the Democrats this year in order to gain control in the House, but this District is an important signal in the elections. "These results should terrify Republicans," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), according to USA Today. "There are more than 100 districts more favorable for Democrats than this one, and we look forward to competing hard in every single one."