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Murphy’s District Prepares For Special Election, Starting A ‘Busy Year’ For Potential Nominees

J. Scott Applewhite
U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R) is resigning from office, effective Oct. 21.

This week is Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy’s last in Congress. The embattled politician is resigning with one year left in his term, meaning Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District must hold a special election to fill the vacancy.


Murphy, a vocal critic of abortion, was forced to resign amid reports that he asked the woman with whom he had an extramarital affair to get an abortion. He leaves office Saturday.


So far, five Democrats and three Republicans have announced they’ll compete to be their party’s nominee in the special election.


The Democratic candidates include Westmoreland Commissioner Gina Cerilli, former Allegheny County Councilman Mike Crossey, former Department of Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary Pam Iovino, former federal prosecutor Conor Lamb and emergency physician Bob Solomon.


On the Republican side, state Sens. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Jefferson Hills) and Kim Ward (R-Hempfield) and state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth) are vying for their party’s nomination.


Both major parties will select their candidates at nominating conventions with local party committee members. Each party may choose one candidate.


The vice chairman of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County, Dave Majernik, said it’s a significant choice.


“Normally, whoever gets selected in this process will be the one who runs again in 2018 for the full term, probably without any challenge,” Majernik said.


Neither party has determined when their nominating convention will take place, though they know who will participate.


The Democratic Party will invite all of its roughly 800 committee members in the 18th District to vote on a candidate.


The district stretches from the southwest corner of Pennsylvania east past Ligonier, and Nancy Patton Mills, chair of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, said her party’s meeting will be “somewhere that is convenient for Washington, Westmoreland and Greene counties to join Allegheny County to vote.”


For the Republican nominating convention, local party committees will be invited to send one delegate for every 1,000 votes their home municipality cast for Donald Trump in 2016. That means there will be 215 Republican delegates in total, according to Majernik


“It’s a reward to those counties and municipalities that got the vote out for President Trump,” Majernik said.


The 18th District voted for Trump by a three-to-two margin, and is considered a safe Republican seat, though there are more registered Democrats than Republicans.


Majernik said candidates who run in the special election will likely run in next year’s primary election as well, "so, it’s going to be a busy year for whoever gets to be the nominee.”


Gov. Tom Wolf has yet to set a date for the special election.

An-Li Herring is a reporter for 90.5 WESA, with a focus on economic policy, local government, and the courts. She previously interned for NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg in Washington, DC, and the investigations team at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A Pittsburgh native, An-Li completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan and earned her law degree from Stanford University. She can be reached at
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