U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb wins in Pennsylvania’s new 17th District

This was the only race in the nation between two incumbents.

2 rep conor lamb election 2018
Incline Illustration / Photo: Conor Lamb Campaign Facebook

Democratic U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb won his bid to represent Pennsylvania’s new 17th Congressional District, beating Republican Congressman Keith Rothfus and emerging victorious in his second high-profile congressional campaign of the year.

The Associated Press called the district at 9:53 p.m.

Lamb’s campaign said he would be spending election night at the DoubleTree Hilton Hotel in Cranberry.

The campaign was dominated by issues like healthcare, immigration and the GOP tax reform law, mirroring midterm races in competitive congressional districts elsewhere around the country.

The race between Lamb and Rothfus, a third-term incumbent, produced a bevy of television ads including one linking Lamb’s support for the Affordable Care Act, sometimes referred to as Obamacare, to Medicare cuts and contrasting that with his vote to continue federal protections for a threatened species of western field mouse. (We fact checked that ad.)

But Lamb remained resilient in the polls, leading by double digits throughout much of this campaign, which, for him, began almost immediately after narrowly winning a special election in March to represent Pennsylvania’s old 18th Congressional District. In that case, Lamb was running to replace former U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy who resigned the office in disgrace last year amid reports of an extramarital affair and text messages in which the pro-life lawmaker urged his mistress to have an abortion.

Lamb’s tenure in the 18th was always going to be brief.

Even before he was elected there, a court-ordered redrawing of Pennsylvania’s congressional map meant Pennsylvania’s congressional districts would be dissolved and replaced with new boundaries in time for this midterm election.

Lamb’s 18th District would become the new 14th and Rothfus’ 12th District would become the new 17th. Both Lamb, a resident of Mt. Lebanon, and Rothfus, a resident Sewickley, live in places covered by the new 17th, although this is not required of candidates.

Lamb’s odds of winning in the new 14th were likely even slimmer than they were in the old 18th. While the old 18th, a district he won in by a few hundred votes, was indeed Republican-leaning — it went to President Trump by 20 points in 2016 — the new 14th was even more so — it went to Trump by 29 points.

The old 12th District, meanwhile, was replaced by the new 17th and was made way more competitive in the process. The old, reliably red 12th went to President Trump by 21 points and the new 17th district by only three points. This left Rothfus, a three-term incumbent, newly vulnerable. This shift was also seen as a crucial component in Democrats’ hopes of flipping the U.S. House of Representatives.

Both men declared their plans to run in the new 17th — which includes Beaver County and portions of Allegheny and Butler counties — and won the nominations of their respective parties.

And while Trump endorsed Rothfus, who has largely voted in lockstep with the president’s agenda, earning an 89.2 percent Trump Score on FiveThirtyEight.com, references to Trump in the campaign for the new 17th were mostly fleeting.

In their pursuit of undecided voters and independents, Rothfus admitted he didn’t agree with everything the president had done, while Lamb distanced himself from Democrats calling for the president’s impeachment.