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Lamb Declares Victory In 18th District, Although Race Remains Too Close To Call

As Tuesday's special election ran into the early hours of Wednesday morning, Democrat Conor Lamb declared victory — though the race remained too close to officially call and Republican Rick Saccone had not conceded.

At around 12:45 a.m., a smiling Lamb took the stage at his election party at Southepointe, telling the crowd: “It took a little longer than we thought, but we did it. You did it! You did it!"

*This post was last updated at 3:42 p.m. Wednesday, March 14, 2018.

He added: "We fought to find common ground and we did so almost everywhere."

Lamb told CNN Wednesday he hadn't yet heard from Saccone, but added, "I congratulate him on fighting hard the whole way."

Credit Kailey Love
90.5 WESA
Conor Lamb supporters hold signs with his face on them, while awaiting election night results at the candidate's Southpointe headquarters on Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

With all absentee votes now counted in the race for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District,  Lamb still maintains a narrow lead over Saccone — just 627 votes, according to election results reported Wednesday by Allegheny, Westmoreland, Washington and Greene counties.

A few hundred provisional ballots have not yet been counted, and it’s unclear whether they could change the outcome of the election. Residents can cast provisional ballots if they show up to the polls and there’s a discrepancy with their voter registration.

Wanda Murren, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of State, said those provisional ballots will likely be counted by Friday when counties complete the computation of all votes, a step in the election certification process. County election boards must determine whether each person who cast a provisional ballot was eligible to vote before tallying his or her selection.

Greene County elections director Tina Kiger said Wednesday that her county received zero provisional ballots, but there are potentially hundreds among the three other counties in the 18th District.

In Westmoreland County, elections director Beth Lechman did not know the total number of provisional ballots but estimated it would be less than 100. She said her county’s election board would meet Friday at 9 a.m. to canvass those ballots.

An elections representative with Washington County said the office received about 90 provisional ballots.

Allegheny County, which had the highest voter turnout of the four counties in the 18th district, reported approximately 128 provisional ballots and 99 military/overseas ballots that will be counted starting Friday at 9 a.m. Officials said the process will likely take multiple business days to complete.

Additionally, up to 188 military or overseas ballots across all four counties have yet to be tallied. 

In a race this close, either of the candidate's supporters can ask for a recount. However there are strict state rules, including requiring three voters in the same precinct who can attest that error or fraud was committed.

Allegheny County Elections Division Director Mark Wolosik said in an email Wednesday afternoon that his office has not received notice of legal action being taken by any party or campaign.

Regardless of the outcome, Lamb's showing in a district Trump won by 20 points in the presidential race was sure to stoke anxiety among Republicans nationwide and renewed enthusiasm among Democrats.

Election results early Wednesday morning showed Lamb won Allegheny County by a hefty 15,000 votes, which was enough to propel him despite trailing Saccone in the other three counties, Washington, Westmoreland and Greene. 

During the campaign, Lamb took a centrist tone. In a district with an economy that relies on energy development, the Democrat expressed support for continued coal mining and shale gas drilling, though he often reiterated that there should be “a cop on the beat” to enforce existing environmental regulations. Before running for Congress, Lamb served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Pittsburgh for three years. 

Saccone, meanwhile, aligned himself closely with Trump, saying "I was Trump before Trump was Trump;" he also said that he wanted to be the president's "wingman." Saccone has served in the Pennsylvania House of Representative since 2011.

The race drew widespread national attention and was seen as a barometer for national politics going forward,  with both candidates' campaigns drawing support from huge names.

President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and some of the president's family members, such as Donald Trump, Jr., made stops in southwest Pennsylvania to campaign for Saccone as the race heated up.

Likewise, several prominent figures in the Democratic party stopped in Pennsylvania to show support for Lamb, including Sen. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) and former Vice President Joe Biden

The ultimate winner will face re-election in just eight months, and the congressional district as currently shaped will likely vanish next year thanks to a court-ordered redrawing of the state's district maps. Yet President Trump and his chief allies invested tremendous time and resources in keeping the seat in Republican hands, mindful the contest could be used to measure Trump's lasting appeal among white, working-class voters and Democrats' anti-Trump fervor.
Democrats must flip 24 GOP-held seats this fall to seize control of the House, and months ago few had counted on the district to be in play. The seat has been in Republican hands for the past 15 years.
It was open now only because longtime Republican congressman Tim Murphy, who espoused strong anti-abortion views, resigned last fall amid revelations of an extramarital affair in which he urged his mistress to get an abortion.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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