It’s worth remembering that all eyes are on Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District this week for one reason and one reason only — former Republican Rep. Tim Murphy resigned in disgrace, having proven himself both a cheater and a hypocrite.
As an early midterm-year contest, Tuesday’s special election between Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone has provided ample fodder for analysts. And there’s no question it’s a compelling race. Lamb, running a centrist campaign, might actually win in a district President Trump carried by nearly 20 points.
That context is helpful to understanding why this race is already dominating the news cycle. Will the results be a harbinger of midterm troubles for Republicans? Should Democrats nominate centrists in red districts? What’s the political future of organized labor?
But lost in all this is the simple fact that there would be no election at all if not for Murphy’s philandering. And Republicans would stand no risk of losing a seat in the lower chamber — spending millions of dollars to save it — had the district’s former representative not failed his family, his constituents, and his party.
As a reminder, Murphy resigned on October 21 after admitting in early September to engaging in an extramarital affair with forensic psychologist Shannon Edwards (who recently announced her own bid for Congress). The pair met in 2016 when Edwards volunteered to help on mental health legislation Murphy was drafting.
His resignation wouldn’t come until after court documents revealed the staunchly pro-life Murphy urged Edwards to get an abortion in the midst of a January 2017 pregnancy scare.
The bad behavior of politicians is a foregone conclusion in Washington. But even cliches come with consequences. The drama of Tuesday’s special election is a powerful reminder that the price of lapsed character can be steep.