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Pence Pledges 'Total Support' For Saccone In Bid To Keep 18th District In GOP Control

Keith Srakocic
Republican candidate for the 18th Congressional District, Rick Saccone (left), appeared with Vice President Mike Pence at a rally in Bethel Park Fri., Feb. 2, 2018.

Vice President Mike Pence on Friday continued the effort of national Republicans to boost Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone (R - Elizabeth) in the special election to represent the 18th Congressional District south of Pittsburgh. It's part of their bid to maintain a majority in Congress through the midterm elections this year.

At a rally in Bethel Park, the Vice President threw his full support behind Saccone, who is running against ex-federal prosecutor Conor Lamb (D - Mt. Lebanon) to fill the seat vacated by former Congressman Tim Murphy (R - Upper St. Clair) last fall.

“As the president said, Rick Saccone has our total support,” Pence told a crowd of 150 supporters at the Bethel Park Community Center. “We need Rick Saccone in Congress to keep America moving forward.”

While the 18th once was considered a safe district for Republicans, Pence’s visit signals a competitive race for the seat. It comes about two weeks after President Donald Trump appeared with Saccone in North Fayette, and amid TV ad buys by national groups on both sides of the aisle.

Saccone said he is running primarily to advance the president’s agenda in Congress.

“The Trump Administration’s bold agenda is delivering results already right here Western Pennsylvania, you know that, you’ve seen it,” he said in remarks introducing the vice president. “Thanks to the GOP tax reform bill, it seems like everyday … another business is announcing that they’re giving bonuses and raises, they’re reinvesting, they’re expanding.”

Pence also touted the president’s accomplishments during his first year in office. Aside from the tax cuts, Pence praised Trump for appointing conservative judges to the federal bench, rolling back government regulations, and repealing the individual mandate.

Pence then turned his attention to Saccone’s opponent, Conor Lamb, saying the Democrat “won’t tell Pennsylvania much about himself, or what he believes” when it comes to issues such as the Affordable Care Act, gun rights, and taxpayer funding for abortion.

“In fact it seems the only thing Conor Lamb will say is that he didn’t support cutting taxes for hardworking Pennsylvanians,” he said. “I guess Conor Lamb agrees with Nancy Pelosi.”

Although Lamb has said Democrats should replace Pelosi as their leader in the House, Pence went on to predict that, if elected, Lamb would be “another rubber stamp for liberal Democrats in Washington DC."

In a statement, the Lamb campaign noted, "Conor is the only candidate who has called for new leadership for both parties in Congress," alluding to Saccone's support of another polarizing figure in the House, Republican Speaker Paul Ryan.

"Someone must have given Vice President Pence false information about Conor Lamb," the statement added. "Conor is a Marine Corps officer who is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.... Conor wants a tax cut where most of the benefits go to the hard-working families of the district instead of the richest one-percent."

The rally in Bethel Park was the first of two stops for Pence in the Pittsburgh area. He also delivered remarks at an event hosted by America First Policies, a nonprofit founded by Trump’s former campaign staffers to promote the president’s agenda, at the Heinz History Center in the Strip District.

The special election is March 13.

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 aherring@wesa.fm.
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