The Procrastinator’s Guide to Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District special election

What do you get when you cross an arch-conservative, a centrist Democrat and a Libertarian? This election.

From left to right: Lamb, Miller and Saccone.

From left to right: Lamb, Miller and Saccone.


The special election for Tim Murphy’s former 18th Congressional District seat remains hard to ignore.

With less than a week left before the polls open there, the race remains the subject of endless speculation and political prognostication as a valued — if not entirely reliable — harbinger of things to come. The race has produced a whirlwind of TV ads, drawn millions of dollars in investments in a matter of weeks and captured the attention of Capitol Hill.

But while the special election ritual is familiar by now, and while much of the media and party structures focus on the implications of the race for the midterm elections and Trump presidency, most voters have a narrower focus — a decision between three candidates.

There’s Conor Lamb, the Democratic nominee, former federal prosecutor, Marine Corps veteran and member of a politically prominent Pittsburgh family.

There’s also Rick Saccone, an Air Force veteran, arch-conservative Republican state representative and self-proclaimed precursor to President Trump.

And finally, there’s Drew Miller, a Pittsburgh attorney, former legal counsel to the Majority Whip of the Pennsylvania Senate and the Libertarian nominee for the 18th District seat.

The latest polling as of Wednesday had Lamb and Saccone neck-and-neck, and the race is definitely closer than Republicans want it to be so late in the game and in such a reliably red district.

Still, if you’re a resident of the 18th — and you can confirm that and find your polling place here — you may be focused less on the broader significance of the race and more on choosing your next U.S. representative: the person who will vote on your behalf in Congress and represent you at the federal level, at least until Pennsylvania gets a new congressional map.

With that in mind, we compiled the following breakdown of the candidates and their primary positions ahead of the polls opening at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Lamb speech

Conor Lamb, Democrat

Suggested 160-character (or less) Twitter bio

A different kind of Democrat. Pro-guns. Anti-Pelosi. A law-and-order liberal. Possible Joe Biden love child. From Mount Lebo. Catholic. “Sort of pro-life.”

Talking points

On energy: Supports “robust and responsible energy development,” and says “Natural gas extraction is creating and supporting a lot of good, middle-class jobs in our region, and I want more of those jobs for our people.”

On guns: Wants to focus on “fixing the background check system” that currently exists. Does not support a ban on weapons like AR-15s.

On health care: “The Affordable Care Act has flaws, but it has provided affordable coverage to more than a million Pennsylvanians who were previously uninsured.” Sees Medicaid expansion under the ACA as a key component in the fight against opiate abuse.

On the opioid epidemic: “We need to invest in prevention. We need to expand access to treatment and rehabilitation. And we need to crack down on the people who are fueling and profiting from this crisis.”

On the GOP’s tax reform law: “We didn’t need to add a penny to our debt to have the tax cut for our working and middle-class people. We now know that 85, 90 percent of that trillion and a half dollars were to the one percent.”

On trade: Supports protections from foreign imports for Pennsylvania steelworkers. “For too long China has been making cheap steel, and they’ve been flooding the market with it.” Offered “qualified support” for Trump’s metals tariffs.

On President Trump: Nothing to see here. Given that he’s a Democrat running in a District that went handily to Trump last time around, Lamb has largely avoided mentions or direct criticism of the commander-in-chief.

More info

Twitter: @ConorLambPA
Facebook: @ConorLambPA

Drew Miller WTAE

Drew Miller, Libertarian

Suggested 160-character (or less) Twitter bio

Running for D18, lives in D14 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Possible third party spoiler ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ “If Dems and GOPers made the problems, how will electing more of them help?”

Talking points

On abortion: “I am pro-choice, and I am the only candidate who is both publicly and personally pro-choice.”

On the deficit: Would only vote to pass a balanced budget and would vote to limit the amount of money the government could borrow.

On energy: An energy attorney with over 7 years in the oil and gas industry, so, yeah, he’s for it. Sees oil, gas and coal as “vital to the region” and is “committed to protecting these industries, while completely eliminating our dependence on foreign oil.”

On government surveillance: Against any and all surveillance of individuals without a warrant.

On marijuana: Legalize it. Wants medical marijuana patients in Pennsylvania to be allowed to keep their guns.

On the opioid epidemic: Public health issue, not a criminal justice issue. “The best way to treat the epidemic is with care and compassion, not incarceration.”

On taxes: “There would be no better stimulus than allowing American workers to keep 100 percent of their paycheck.” Supports a national sales tax instead of an income tax.

More info

Twitter: @DrewGrayMiller
Facebook: @DrewGrayMiller

Rick Saccone

Rick Saccone, Republican

Suggested 160-character (or less) Twitter bio

Trump 1.0. Tough on terror. Tough on North Korea. Kevin Costner to the conservative movement’s Whitney Houston.

Talking points

On church and state: Criticized Lamb for saying he supports the separation of church and state. Saccone also once sponsored a bill to put “In God We Trust” on public school buildings in Pennsylvania and another declaring 2012 “The Year of the Bible” in the Commonwealth.

On guns: Like Lamb, Saccone opposes new firearm restrictions, including bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips. Said the government must refine its background check system to respond to warnings about specific individuals.

On health care: Wants to let free-market principles fix our national health care crisis.

On immigration: Supports Kate’s Law and securing our borders. Wants intense vetting of immigrants coming from terror-training countries.

On the opioid epidemic: Says he helped pass important legislation in the state House to prevent drug addiction and promote access to health care treatment. Supports taxpayer-funded programs, but said the “whole society has to be involved” in a solution, not just government.

On taxes: Supports GOP tax reform law and “will work tirelessly to continue advancing President Trump’s bold agenda in Congress.”

On trade: Supports Trump’s metals tariffs. “Supports free trade as long as it’s fair.”

More info

Twitter: @Saccone4PA18
Facebook: @ricksacconeforcongress