MT. LEBANON, Penn. — Conor Lamb, the 33 year-old former U.S. attorney and Marine veteran from this suburban Pittsburgh neighborhood, is now the official Democratic nominee to compete for the seat held by disgraced former Rep. Tim Murphy.
Murphy, an Upper St. Clair Republican who resigned in the aftermath of the sordid details of his affair were publicly revealed.
Lamb earned the nomination in two ballots during a lively party convention held in Washington, Penn., part of the sprawling district that includes suburban Pittsburgh, and larger swaths of rural Washington, Westmoreland and Greene counties.
Lamb said in an interview with the Washington Examiner after his win that his work on the cases in the U.S. Attorneys on the opioid epidemic were part of what inspired him to run.
“We need to do a better job in tackling the heroin addiction in this region, I don’t know if people understand how bad it is,” he said.
Lamb also points to growing jobs and securing meaningful infrastructure projects to keep the roads and bridges of the hilly terrain of the region up to date as key issues he will run on.
“But it is the heroin addiction that is really personal to me,” he said.
In Allegheny County alone there were 613 fatal overdoes last year, a 44 percent increase over 2015.
Lamb said he was inspired by a family tradition of public service, ‘My grandfather was my hero,” he said of the late state Senate majority leader who died two years ago at the age of 92.
Lamb, a practicing Catholic, supports the law of the land on abortion and is pro-Second Amendment.
The 18th congressional district has been seen such a reliably Republican district that no Democrat was on the ballot in 2016. It is also a district that Donald J. Trump won, with nearly 60 percent of the vote.
But this time could be different for the Democrats and — if a wave election is in its infancy – this is one of those districts that could show Republican vulnerabilities.
In Lamb’s favor is the political family pedigree and the infrastructure that comes with that long-standing tradition of winning seats in Allegheny County that goes back to his grandfather’s state Senate seat.
Democrats hold a 70,000 registered voter advantage over Republicans, but culturally and economically they have been at odds with the voters; this is an energ- rich region filled with coal and shale jobs both in the mines and in the business side of the industry. Voters also tend to be pro-life and pro-gun, cultural positions that have hurt past Democratic candidates chances.
In Western Pennsylvania, the Lambs are considered a powerful political family, in particular in the South Hills portion of Allegheny County where the largest concentration of progressive Democratic voters reside.
Rick Saccone, a western Pennsylvania state senator and former U.S. Airforce officer and diplomat, won his party’s nomination last Saturday.
The last time Pennsylvania held a special election was in 2010 to replace the late Jack Murtha, which was won in a highly contest race that year by Democrat Mark Critz over Republican Tim Burns.
The Critz win in the spring of 2010 was considered a harbinger for House Democrats to hold onto their comfortable majority that fall – Democrats went on to lose the majority in November in a historic wave election that favored Republicans.
This race will likely also be considered a bellwether; the seat is mostly suburban and rural, majority white and could be an area where President Trump’s favorability plays into the outcome of the race.
Out of Pennsylvania’s 18 House seats Republicans hold 13 to the Democrats 5 – the special election will be held March 13, 2018.