The margin was narrow. But the message is clear: Working Americans were the real winners in Tuesday’s special election Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. By the early hours of the morning, Democrat Conor Lamb had pulled off an upset victory in the southwestern PA district, which Donald Trump carried by almost 20 percentage points in 2016.
Working Families Focus. In his post-election “spin,” Republican Speaker Paul Ryan said the results don’t matter because Lamb is a “conservative.” But, if one phrase sums up the youthful Marine veteran, former federal prosecutor, and self-described “FDR Democrat,” it’s “pro-worker.” With strong support from unions representing 80,000 workers throughout the district, Lamb focused on working families’ concerns, including:
- Building infrastructure and creating jobs;
- Protecting Medicare, Social Security, and the Affordable Care Act;
- Defending workers’ rights to organize unions and bargain for better pay and working conditions.
Anti-Worker Opponent. Lamb’s opponent, Rick Saccone, an entrenched state legislator, was backed by President Trump (who stumped for Saccone twice) and $10.7 million in secretive “super PAC” spending. Right-wing billionaires backed Saccone because of his anti-worker record, including support for “right-to-work” (for less) laws, which cost workers over $1,500 a year in lost wages.
Republican Tax Plan Repudiated. After defending the Republican trickle-down tax plan in two-thirds of their TV ads through mid-February, the pro-Saccone super PACs realized working-class voters weren’t buying what they were selling, and instead switched to attacking immigrants.
“The Heart and Soul of This Campaign.” Union members of all stripes actively campaigned for Lamb, prompting him to call them “the heart and soul of this campaign.” In his victory speech, Lamb declared that the unions “built Western Pennsylvania.” Lamb’s victory is a reminder of what too many Democrats forget: Their success depends on working Americans and their unions.