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Democrat Deluzio beats Shaffer in 17th District, a crucial battleground

 Democrat Chris Deluzio, left, and Republican Jeremy Shaffer, right.
Keith Srakocic
Chris Deluzio, Democratic Party candidate for Pennsylvania's 17th Congressional District, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, attends a party campaign rally in Beaver, Pa.

Democrat Chris Deluzio bested Republican Jeremy Shaffer in the contest for Pennsylvania’s 17th Congressional District, according to unofficial results Tuesday.

Deluzio credited organized labor as a driving force behind his win.

“Let me be crystal clear about something. I would not be standing here talking to you as our congressman without labor behind me,” Deluzio told cheering supporters at the Carpenters’ Training Center late Tuesday.

Of the workers who supported him, from firefighters to baristas to steelworkers, he said, “I will have your backs in Washington. That is a promise.”

Shaffer conceded Tuesday night.

Heading into Election Day, the contest for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb might have been the closest thing to normal that 2022 had to offer in Pennsylvania politics. Unlike many other races this year, it featured an actual debate and ads that, while omnipresent and hard-hitting, at least relied on familiar attacks.

And yet with just five seats in the U.S. House of Representatives separating Republicans from flipping control of the lower branch of Congress, the stakes of this race are arguably as crucial as any in the nation.

The two white-collar professionals have been squaring off in the 17th, a swing district that joins Beaver County to a suburban swath of Allegheny County. The geography encompasses college-educated suburbs with working-class industrial and post-industrial communities. In 2020, the comparatively moderate Lamb won re-election in a somewhat different configuration of the district by slightly less than 3 percentage points.

Deluzio is a U.S. Navy veteran and lawyer who has worked as the policy director for a University of Pittsburgh center focused on cyber law and security. Prior to that, he worked in election security for the Brennan Center. He bested LGBT activist Sean Meloy to become the Democratic nominee this past spring.

Shaffer is a former Ross Township commissioner, as well as an electrical and computer engineer whose company provides software to track the condition of infrastructure. He fended off two Republican challengers to become his party’s nominee in the race.

Deluzio pointed out stark differences between himself and Shaffer on issues such as gun control — he favors a ban on high-capacity magazines — and abortion. (Deluzio supports abortion rights; Shaffer opposes them but says the decision should be made at the state level — though he has expressed openness to a Constitutional amendment to restrict the procedure.) And he’s called for more domestic manufacturing as a means to fight inflation and boost the economy.

Shaffer, meanwhile, lumped Deluzio in with a Democratic Party he’s blamed for inflation and losing control of the border with Mexico. At the same time, he’s taken pains to distance himself from extremes in his own party. He has said he would have voted to accept Joe Biden’s win in 2020, for example. He also has said he would have supported Biden’s infrastructure spending, though in a state Senate bid in 2018, he toppled a Republican in a state Senate primary by faulting him for supporting a bipartisan infrastructure deal at the state level.

Deluzio secured the backing of a broad swath of union leadership, and — as has been true nationwide — was able to outraise his Republican rival. But Shaffer consolidated much of his own party’s support and has been able to close the gap by loaning $1 million to his own bid. He received the lion’s share of outside funding as well.

Those dollars paid for attacks that attacked Deluzio as a socialist professor who was too close to progressives like Congressional candidate Summer Lee (Deluzio had contributed a decidedly modest sum of slightly more than $100 to Lee and a related political committee). Democrats countered that Shaffer made much of his money working for a company that held contracts in China, and that he is more extreme than he wanted voters to think. (Shaffer has in the past donated to anti-gun-control hardliners at Firearm Owners Against Crime, as well as other causes.)

Following his brief concession speech, Shaffer cited Republicans’ weak mail-in vote as a primary driver of his defeat. “When Republicans are totally dependent on Election Day, it puts us at a big disadvantage.”

WESA's An-Li Herring contributed to this report.

Nearly three decades after leaving home for college, Chris Potter now lives four miles from the house he grew up in -- a testament either to the charm of the South Hills or to a simple lack of ambition. In the intervening years, Potter held a variety of jobs, including asbestos abatement engineer and ice-cream truck driver. He has also worked for a number of local media outlets, only some of which then went out of business. After serving as the editor of Pittsburgh City Paper for a decade, he covered politics and government at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has won some awards during the course of his quarter-century journalistic career, but then even a blind squirrel sometimes digs up an acorn.
Kate Giammarise focuses her reporting on poverty, social services and affordable housing. Before joining WESA, she covered those topics for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for nearly five years; prior to that, she spent several years in the paper’s Harrisburg bureau covering the legislature, governor and state government. She can be reached at or 412-697-2953.